A couple of cops showed up and escorted a guy onto the plane; I guess he was being deported or extradited or something. He wasn't cuffed, and the cops didn't get onto the plane, they just made sure he was on it when it left.
While we were taxiing, the head steward had to reboot the entertainment system, and apparently every seatback video display is running a separate copy of Linux: every one of them treated us to a thousand lines of boot/config status as it booted. Some unresolved symbols, your kernel now is tainted because you just loaded an unlicensed module, device or file not found, loading json this and that, etc. I'm glad this stuff isn't running the flight controls. Went on for 5 or 10 minutes before getting to a GUI, doing some more loading, then finally working.
Not a bad flight: they brought beverages, then dinner, later more beverages, in the morning a pastry and more beverages.
Good signage: easily found the free shuttle bus to the other terminal. A 5-minute ride, then walked through a long overpass to the RENFE train station. Bought a T10 card (€9.80), and then a 20-minute wait for the train. Very nice new train-cars, with lots of video-screens to tell you what stations are coming up. Got off at the Estacio de Sants station, found the Blue L5 Metro line, had to go out and back in to get onto the platform going the right way. Only a 3-minute wait, then onto the Metro. New cars again, lots of video-screens and LED indicators. Through 8 or 9 stops, to Virrei Amat stop.
Choice of two directions, picked the wrong one and had to backtrack a couple of blocks. Found the apartment building pretty easily, by about 11:20. But the outside door is locked, no one answers the bell for my apartment, no one waiting to let me in. Soon a guy from another apartment came out, and I caught the front door, but he speaks very little English, and doesn't recognize the name of the owner of the apartment I'm renting. Took the elevator up, rang the bell on the apartment, no answer. Dumped my suitcase outside the door, rang bells on a few other apartments, no one home. Now what ?
Back down (leaving my suitcase outside the apartment door) and outside, having to let the front door lock behind me, but there's no help for it. Looked for a phone booth, couldn't find any. Asked a few people to call for me (I have two phone numbers for the owner), but the phone numbers aren't Spanish numbers. Sat at an outdoor cafe table and fired up my laptop, but no free Wi-Fi. Lady who runs the cafe came over to roust me, she doesn't speak much English, but her 15-year-old daughter does. She suggested going a few blocks up the street to the big shopping center and using Wi-Fi in McDonald's.
So I did that. Went there, bought a McRib sandwich (€2.60) and used Wi-Fi. No AC power, so I have to be quick. Skype-called both phone numbers (turns out they're Austrian) and left messages. Sent email to all three addresses I have for the owner. Left a message for him on the AirBNB site, too.
Back to the apartment building, and in less than 5 minutes the same guy was coming out and I caught the front door again. I tried to communicate with him, he got frustrated and said something like "no worries" with an arm-sweep that seemed to mean "go away and stay in a hotel". He left, I went up and sat outside the apartment door for half an hour or more, listening to my MP3 player.
Finally Dora, the owner's partner, showed up around 1:30, I think. She apologized, said there had been some confusion, both of them were working today, and today is a holiday anyway. I had told the owner I'd arrive around 10:30, but he didn't tell Dora, and I didn't have her phone number.
Then things got strange. We went into the apartment, and it's a lot smaller and more cluttered than I expected. Dora said there's someone in one bedroom, and he's a smoker, despite the no-smoking rule. He says he smokes only out on the terrace, but the apartment smells of smoke. She pointed to the bedroom for me, and it's tiny, and there's only one twin bed; I thought each bedroom slept two. Then she's saying, so maybe I'd be better off in another apartment she has.
I'm a little concerned; where is this other apartment, am I going to have to figure out new directions, etc ? She leads the way, and it turns out we're going only two blocks away, and it's the apartment Dora and her son live in. The room here is much nicer, still only one bed but it's much bigger; don't know if this is going to work for my brother when he joins me for a week. The apartment is small by USA standards but okay. Later, I found out it belongs to her sister, who now is working somewhere in the south of Spain. The original apartment I was going to rent belongs to Dora.
So I try to settle in. Have a shave and shower, and the shower stall is the smallest I've ever used; every time I move, my elbow hits the lever and changes the water temperature radically. The AC adapters I've brought with me don't fit the outlets here, so no computer until I get an adapter. And the Wi-Fi is not working; she's been trying to get it to work. I'm less happy.
Dora is done with work for the day (later, I find out she's a doctor; emergency medicine and GP). She cooks up a meal of spaghetti, pushing a big bowl of it on me even though I'm not very hungry. We talk a bit, and she says people here are really hurting for money, even as a doctor she makes only about €1000 per month, all of the housing is worth less than people paid for it. A lot of apartments look unoccupied, but maybe that's wrong: they have these roll-down security-shutters they use here. A lot of the businesses that are closed today may be open tomorrow. She's originally Peruvian, worked and studied in Maryland for a couple of years, came to Spain in 2005 and now has citizenship.
Around 4 PM I retire to my bedroom for a siesta. I try to nap a little, but mostly listen to MP3's and read books. I can't get the big flat-screen TV in my bedroom to work. I'm a bit unsettled from the apartment confusion today.
We start stirring around 8. Dora and I have coffee and milk with biscuits and some olives in the kitchen. Dora gets the TV in my bedroom to work; there was a switch on the side of it that I didn't know about, and you have to hold the remote a bit high up for it to work. She shows me the TV in the sitting room, and there's an extra unused AC adapter sitting next to it; she lends it to me and I get my laptop charging. We talk about Barcelona, about my living on a boat, she thinks I should have a mobile phone, maybe I shouldn't bother trying to rent or buy a bike, lots of things. After a while, her son Bryan gets home from a friend's house and we all chat a bit. Later, Dora hands me a cellular-Wi-Fi-router and says maybe I can get it working; I'll try later. ("Wi-Fi" is pronounced "wiffee" here.)
Around 9, Dora and I go out for a walk. The apartment address is Carrer Deia number 19, floor 1, apt 1. Nice evening, slightly cool, lots of people out. Lots of people in bars watching the Barcelona football game, which is going on in the stadium here in town. But people are subdued; the team is losing again. Dora takes me on an exhaustive tour of the nearby Metro stops and bus stops and train station, pointing out lots of shops and landmarks; too much information, but it's nice to walk and see things. Apparently the internet cafes here charge only €1 for an hour, so I could do that while the apartment Wi-Fi isn't working. Back to the apartment by 10:30.
Looked at the "Wi-Fi" router Dora handed to me earlier. Instructions in Spanish or Catalan only, naturally. Looks like it is a SIM-card cellular MODEM that plugs into USB, to give cellular internet access for one computer. Plugged it into AC and it started charging its battery.
Still no free Wi-Fi here; I thought I read somewhere that Barcelona had free municipal Wi-Fi. Maybe not, or maybe only in the very center of the city ?
Messed around with the router and got it working ! It is a cellular-to-Wi-Fi router; laptop connects to it via Wi-Fi, then it does cellular to internet. Will run while plugged into AC only, not a computer, and will support multiple computers. Nice.
Left the apartment around 10:45, I think. Took pictures of the apartment building (pic), and the one I was originally going to stay in (pic), just to give you an idea. Street nearby (pic).
Got €100 out of an ATM (you can add money to a mobile phone through it, too). Down to the Metro station (pic), and took Metro to Placa Catalunya. Loads of people here; it's a central place for the airport bus and the tourist buses and tourist information, and start of the main tourist street, La Rambla. Pics. Fairly long lines for the tourist day-tour buses, and in the information center. I looked around a bit and then went down La Rambla.
Loads of people strolling. Vendors selling trinkets, and some event ticket vendors. At one point, a dozen caricaturists and painters. Pics. Toward the port, a couple of "living statue" people (I didn't get pics of them).
Took a side-trip into the Boqueria market (pics). Lots of fish for sale, plenty of fruit and veggies and meat. I bought a veggie wrap for partial lunch.
Statue of Columbus on top of tall column at the harbor. Several power-catamarans that take people out for a 40-minute spin for €10 or so. More interesting to me is a sailing catamaran that goes out for an hour and half for €16 or so (before the trip, I saw a page about a sloop that goes out for 6 hours for an enormous €240 per person). A swing-bridge opens to let boats in and out of the marina, but it seemed to swing differently at different times (maybe it has two opening parts, one for small boats and one for bigger boats ?).
Over the bridge to MareMagnum, a nice shopping center. One attraction is the reflective curved ceiling outside the entrance. Pics. Lots of schoolkids inside, as well as tourists and locals etc. [Apparently they don't do water-fountains here; I'm getting parched.]
Walked along the Littoral. I'm starting to feel pretty tired. Had hoped for info on getting a ride on some tall-ship sailboats docked there, but they didn't have any info posted.
The weather is lovely, sunny but cool enough that you need a sweater in the shade, and even out in the sun most times. Sometimes in the Metro cars it gets too warm to be wearing the sweater.
Almost bought a bottle of water for €2 from a vendor stand, but then went across the street into a supermercado where the same bottle was €.50; ended up buying juice anyway. Bought some munchies to add to lunch. While I was eating them, watched locals use the shared-bike rack. They have some ID card they swipe when they take a bike. Dora said they have to finish each bike trip in 30 minutes max.
Walked up Via Laietana, a main street with lots of high-speed traffic. Ducked off it and found the side of some part of the cathedral complex (pic). Then out into the square in front of the cathedral (pic), and people-watched for a while.
Down some narrow streets and then Carrer de Ferram to La Rambla. Up Rambla, and bought an ArTicket (6-museum ticket) for €30 (unfortunately, you get only one admission to each museum; since I'm here for 2 months, I'd love to go to a couple of them several times each).
On Rambla, all day, there have been a dozen or so guys selling some thing that makes your voice sound funny, like a buzzy chipmunk or something. I stopped and asked one guy how it worked. I had assumed it was electronic, but it's a little plastic thing the size of an inch-long piece of soda-straw, and you put it on top of your tongue and talk-whistle through it. He said the price is 3 for €5. I didn't really want one anyway, but with every step away I took, the price dropped. Finally down to 1 for €1, for a piece of plastic that probably cost half a penny to make. No, thanks.
Into the Metro, got a little confused but eventually found the right place. And then the entrance gate machine wouldn't take my T10 card; it can't be empty yet ! Can't understand what the machine is saying. Tried several machines, then took it to the booth. The lady there tried it in a machine, it didn't work, so she took it to a ticket-selling machine, logged in as supervisor, printed a duplicate ticket for me, and said I had 7 rides left. So I guess the train and Metro from the airport cost 2 rides; I thought 2 rides within 1.5 hours counted as one ride. Or maybe my in-out-in confusion at Sants yesterday cost me an extra ride ?
Metro back to Fabra i Puig station, and walked up the road. Stopped to buy a small pizza for €2 at a bakery, and found a bench and ate it (the pizza) while I read a book.
Back to the apartment by 5 PM, very tired and a little headachey. Chatted a little with Dora, and when I told her how crowded the tourist areas were, she said she thought they got worse on weekends ! She confirmed what I guessed: probably best way to get on the tourist bus is to get there first thing in the morning. But I don't know if I'm going to bother with those buses. I'll do one when my brother is here, I guess.
Wrote up my daily log file and processed pictures, napped a bit, took a Tonopan, wrote the log some more. I overdid it today. A little sunburned, too. Maybe I'm feeling a little jet-lag, too.
Into Fundacio Tapies, a very-contemporary-art museum. Pics. It's included on my combined ticket, and I'm not up for a major museum today, so I'm here. Turns out to be small, the building is a maze, and the art is mostly inscrutable. Nice enough building. But I wouldn't have paid the €7 admission required when you don't have the combined ticket. Disappointing.
Came out, went a few blocks, and into the Egyptian museum (€11). Not very large, but quite nice. Interesting pictures of the various excavations done to obtain the artifacts. A copy of the Rosetta stone, but I've seen the original in London. Ancient Egyptians thought the main god (they call it "Re" here; I thought it was "Ra" ?) had body or skin of gold, so probably all the gods did, so coating a mummy with gold leaf would sort of fool the gods into accepting the deceased. Took a break and sat up on the top terrace of the museum and read a book for a little while; very peaceful. A nice touch: the elevator signs have an Egyptian theme. Pics.
Out, and over to La Pedrera, a Gaudi apartment building and major tourist attraction. Fairly long line to get in, but I'm not trying to do that today. Took pics, people-watched, went into the associated bookstore, wandered. Pics.
Over to Casa de les Punxes, an interesting-looking building, but not open to the public. Pics. Sat for a bit, then down Avinguda Diagonal to a nice park at Passeig de Sant Joan. A couple of interesting buildings on the way: pics. Looked for Palau Macaya, there's an interesting-looking building in the right place but with big banners saying something completely different. Went in, and all you can do is look at the courtyard. Which is nice. Pics.
Over to Sagrad Familia, the unfinished cathedral. And the tourists are swarming here. Pics. Lots of groups lying around in the park next door, people everywhere, tour buses, etc. I just wanted to get a sense of the place. Soon into the Metro station. Had to walk so far inside the station that it felt like I was walking home: down, across, up, down, wrong side side of the line I wanted, up and down again. Onto a crowded train, half a dozen stops back to Virrei Amat. Back to the apartment by about 3:15.
Helped Dora make canapes for her son Bryan's confirmation tonight. Pics. And Dora needs a man to stand with Bryan as he's confirmed, and I'm "it". Despite the fact that I'm no longer a Catholic, I'm an atheist. Should be interesting. And I wonder how the three of us are going to carry 7 trays of canapes a fairly long distance to his school.
Dora brings out a couple of jackets for me to try one; this deal is looking worse. I end up with a nice brown suede Peruvian jacket that fits well. She wishes I had better pants than my black jeans, and my sandals with socks are not good, but there's no help for that.
Around 5:30, a couple of Bryan's friends, and one of Dora's friends, show up. By 6:15, the kids have piled into a taxi with a couple of trays of canapes. Soon another taxi arrives, and the three of us get in. Later, we pick up another lady, another friend of Dora's. I have two trays of canapes, one of which is well-oiled stuff and threatening to slide off the edges every time the taxi brakes or turns. But on the whole trip, only one canape slides off, and it was while Dora was holding the tray, and we caught it and put it back on.
To the high school before 7, and into the chapel. Probably 100 people in the congregation, plus about 10 girls in a chorus, a couple of guitar players, four priests, a few other functionaries. Some small kids, which provide free entertainment throughout the evening. Various hymns and readings, none of which I understand; it's all in Catalan. Eleven kids being confirmed, out of a class of 25 to 30. Bryan is reluctant, but eventually goes through it, with me standing next to him. I take lots of pictures throughout, since Dora wants lots of pictures. Then a mass, and communion, and more singing. The music and singing is pretty good.
Finally it's over by 8:35, and we take more pictures, and then more pictures. Pics. Then we head for the snacks. A nice time, lots of nice people and good things to eat, but I can't understand a word anyone says. We meet another friend of Dora's, who is young and pretty, but has no English. I wander and nibble and wander. This is a Salesian school, Collegi Sant Joan Bosco, I think all grades up through high school.
Finally by 9:45 or so, Dora and I leave, and she wants to walk home. So we walk and talk, and then sit and talk for a while, then walk some more. Eventually we're back in her neighborhood, and we watch a free concert in the park for 5 minutes or so. Probably a couple hundred people there, and Dora says it's not Catalan music, it's southern Spanish or gypsy music. Into the apartment by 11:30 or so.
Walked down Piferrer and Fabra i Puig, looking for anything that looked like a ticket outlet where I could buy tickets to the soccer game tomorrow night. No luck. Into the Fabra i Puig Metro station, off to Placa Catalunya. Had been wondering if there would be massive crowds on the weekend, but no. Pics. Into the main Tourist Info stand, and there are no lines at all ! Found out later: usually lines in the morning, but not after noon or so.
Unfortunately, can't get two seats together in the cheap-seats (€57 each !) at the football game. I offered to take Dora to the game. Will have to try again later.
Walked down La Rambla a bit, and the crowds are thick (pic). Left turn and headed off to the Cathedral. Couldn't figure out the entrance sign (pic) on the Cathedral; guidebook says admission is free, sign seems to say both free and €6. Maybe it's free at some hours, not free at others ? I'm not willing to wait through the slow line to find out the real story. Wandered down some narrow side streets.
Walked down to the Picasso Museum, which has multiple confusing entrances, and I seemed to somehow walk into the back end of it for free. But maybe if I had gone another 50 feet, I would have been stopped because I didn't have a badge or something.
Bought a bottle of water, found a bakery, bought a pastry of unknown contents (perlini something). Contents seemed to be ham and lots of bacon grease or something. Nourishing. Out and to a wider street and sat for a while. Pic.
Onward to the big Ciutadella park. People riding rental trikes: pic. Something called a "Hivernacle" (?); looks like the sides are greenhouses: pic. Lots of activity here: sunbathing, biking, a Segway tour went through, lots of people. Sat for a while. Strange sculpture, with some kind of cheerleaders practicing next to it: pic. Castle of three dragons: pic.
Then up to the Arc de Triomf: pics. Lots of Red Cross trucks near it; looks like they're setting up for a concert or something tonight.
Back through interesting streets to La Rambla, up to Placa Catalunya, into the Tourist Info center. Bought two tickets to the football game for €114 total; no VAT or service fee or anything. [It showed up on my credit card at a $1.305/€1 exchange rate, which seems a perfectly fair rate, with no extra fees by my credit-card company.] Sat in the Plaza for a little while.
Into the Metro station, one line up to Diagonal, other line to Virrei Amat.
Back to the apartment by 4:30.
Dora wants to show me the colored fountains near Placa Espanya (Font Magica de Montjuic). So at 8:15, we're out the door and off to the Fabra i Puig Metro stop. But 80% of the way there, it starts sprinkling rain, so she sends me back to the apartment for two umbrellas. A long Metro ride to the plaza, and it's raining moderately when we get there.
Down a lane of white fountains, then to the main colored fountain, which has music playing somewhat synchronized with the water and colors. Pics. We slowly work our way up the hillside toward the MNAC museum. Along the way, I buy a parachute-light trinket for €2, and only a few minutes later manage to drop it while taking pictures. But we retraced our steps and retrieved it.
The rain stopped, we climbed higher up the hill (but this city is full of escalators, indoors and outdoors, and there are plenty here; pic). Then Dora wanted to go higher and higher, and we eventually worked our way back to empty streets in front of the sport museum on Montjuic. She wanted to just sit for a while in the quiet. At a couple points we looked for signs that a night bus would come through here, but no luck, so back down to the fountains. Still plenty of people, and the fountains and music still going, at 11 PM or so.
We walked back to the Placa, and went into the Arenas building. The outside is very colorful, multi-tiered with Moorish arches, but none of my pictures came out well, in the soft light. It's a shopping center. We took a glass elevator to the top, where there's a terrace giving views in 360 degrees. Nice view down on Placa Espanya: pic.
Eventually we find our way into the Metro right at midnight, and now Dora is getting tired; I was tired a while ago. She naps a bit, we arrive, halfway back to the apartment we sit on a bench and rest for a while. Back to the apartment, and she wants a little food and a big hot drink, so I cook a bacon-cheese omelet and she makes some anise tea, and we eat and chat.
Then I want to go to sleep, and she wants to see the family pictures I have on my laptop ! So I show her the pictures of my grandparents, parents, me and my siblings, etc as kids, adults, etc. It's fun, but by 3 AM she wants to keep looking at pictures, and finally I just shut off the computer. Then she wants to see if there are films on TV, and I just go to bed and turn off the light. And after 5 minutes she turns off the TV and goes away to bed.
Reading the guidebook, I find that several museums have free admission on the first Sunday of the month (today). But I don't have dry clothes, I'm tired, and we're going to the football game tonight. Bad timing.
Didn't get out until noon, and just went across the street to the park. Stayed in the sunshine to stay warm; I'm just wearing shorts and T-shirt. Yet another band and entertainment going for a couple of hours. Can-can music and singers in costume up on the stage, then just some music.
Went for a walk in a direction I haven't gone before. Lots of apartment buildings (pic); this city has zillions of them. But there are plenty of shops (most closed today) among the buildings, so you can walk to do your shopping. Dora doesn't even know how to drive.
Looped around, bought a pastry at a bakery (the best, cheapest way to eat around here, along with the supermercados). While I was eating it, a guy tried to bum some money from me, and from some other people. First time I've seen that here, but in the tourist areas there are some sidewalk beggars. And some buskers, some in the Metro entrances, playing music.
Into the Heron City Center shopping center (pic). They really like swooping brushed metal, sweeping staircases, escalators here.
Back on the street, heard some cheering from a park/field, went over to investigate. The chain-link fence has sheet-metal from thigh to head height, to make it awkward for people to watch from outside. But several other people were crouching down to see what the excitement was, so I did too. And obviously there had been a bad foul just before I got there: a guy was lying on the ground, and he stayed there for long minutes and I think they were going to summon medical help. Lots of angry players milling around and pushing each other, and an older man who must be a manager/coach was angriest of all. I didn't even see a soccer ball; I think the match was going to be ended. Pic.
Back to the apartment after 2. Laundry is almost finished drying.
Around 4, Dora is back, and wants me to cook a meal. But it's her kitchen, and so every chance I get, I do the grunt work and she does the important stuff. She likes complicated meals with all of the amenities (napkins and all that, you know), so we have lentils with meat in it, over rice, with salad, and a second salad of tomatoes and cheese, and leftover mussels canapes, and small shots of some kind of grappa. Every time I started to do something, she had a different pot or spoon to do it with, and we ended up with a lot of dirty dishes and pans and silverware (I did the dishes). Every time I said "I'd do it a lot more simply on the boat", she'd say "but we're not on the boat", which was unanswerable. We didn't finish eating until 5:45.
Tried to Skype-call my Mom for Mother's Day, but no answer. And later I found out that Mother's Day here is a week earlier than that in USA, I think.
Napped for a while, then it was time to go to the soccer (football) game. After saying we needed to leave 2 hours before game time, Dora delayed and kept watching some film, and so it was almost 7:30 before we left. Into the Metro (had to buy a new T10 card), which slowly got more crowded, but we had grabbed seats. Eventually everyone got off at the Collblanc stop, one of those for the stadium. We just went along with the hordes, not having to worry about street names and directions.
Up to the stadium, in, then 1/3 of the way around it to find the correct entrance. Along the way, we stopped in front of big pictures of the team to take our pictures with them, and another couple was trying to do the same thing at the same time. And as usual, Dora didn't want just one picture, she wanted 3 pictures of each of us at various places in front of the team.
Finally into the stadium, and up and up and up stairs to the General section at the top. Dora found seats, but the numbers didn't match our tickets, explained that to her, we moved to seats with the right numbers, but I was half-sure we were in the section adjoining to the section we should have been in. But no one came to kick us out. And despite the ticket-sales web site saying the cheap seats were almost sold out, only single seats left here and there, two seats next to us stayed empty through the whole game, and the whole level was maybe 90% or 95% occupied. The lower, more expensive levels were maybe 75% occupied.
But the view of the field was great ! I expected the players would be tiny figures in the distance in such a big stadium, but we could see everything clearly. Excellent ! Our timing is good: into our seats by 8:35 for a 9:00 start. We watch the teams warming up for a while. Then they leave the field, and for some reason sprinklers come on. Mainly in the middle of the field, but for several minutes. Why ?
Of course, at 9 they had to bring some youth-team onto the field for pictures and applause etc. But the game started fairly promptly after that. And a few rain-sprinkles started, too, and it sprinkled again later, but never rained. Great weather for the game; a terrific evening.
The play started badly for Barcelona. The first couple of minutes, the ball was in front of their goal the whole time, and at 1:45, Real Betis scored. There was despair in the stadium.
But then things got better, the play was more even, Barcelona started threatening and getting chances. Around the 8-minute mark, Barca scored ! Ecstasy !
Dora says Barca's best player, Messi, isn't playing for some reason. And I can see that the quality of play isn't what I expected from a top team.
But it's still a fun game, cheering when Barca is on attack, holding the breath when Betis is threatening. Lots of back and forth, lots of sweet individual plays to admire or criticize. Then, in a big reversal, Barca mounts a great attack but bangs a terrific shot off the crossbar and out (no score), and very soon Betis takes the ball down to the other end and scores again, and Barca is down 1-2. And a few minutes later it's halftime.
No halftime show or entertainment, not even music, just sprinklers and groundskeepers on the field. Just not up to American standards of glitz and overproduction. (I suggest to Dora: the team could make a lot of money by selling tickets for fans to run out onto the field at halftime and kick a couple of goals; I'm sure people would pay €100 each for that opportunity.) And no one seems to be drinking or eating, few or no concession stands in the stadium. Dora has brought a small can of seltzer and I have a couple of powerbars, so we have a snack.
Start of the second half, and maybe the play is improving. After 5 minutes or so, Barca scores an equalizer; now it's 2-2. And soon after, the star player Messi comes in, to rapture from the stands. Dora keeps saying he's a little man, short, and I keep joking back that they all look little from here. Anyway, within a couple of minutes, Betis fouls someone not far outside the penalty area, Messi takes the free kick, and hits a marvelous curving shot into the upper corner of the goal ! The stadium goes wild ! 3-2 !
Game pics (but mostly I was busy watching and cheering).
Lots more back-and-forth, Barca slowly keeping the pressure on, and eventually they score a thrilling goal where 2 or 3 players are passing the ball right across in front of the goalie, passing a couple of times when everyone expected a shot, and then bang! it went in. Goalie never had a chance.
Betis tries hard, Barca slows down, crowd attention wanders and we do "The Wave" a couple of times. There's really only one more serious attack by Barca before the end of the game. A wild, bouncing ball coming in with several players fighting over it, the Real Betis goalie runs out and punches it away, and the goalie waves his fist in triumph but also frustration at the game being lost.
It's been a remarkably clean game, only two yellow-cards, I think, and only a couple of short injury timeouts. Maybe 2 minutes of extra time after regulation.
Then it's over, and everyone stands and sings a couple choruses of the team song. And then starts filing out to head for the Metro stops.
We wait, and lots of people are lining up to stand against the railing and have their friends take their picture with the field as the backdrop. So Dora and I do that, and she wants picture after picture, and borrows someone's team banner to hold. Eventually, a security guard comes along to chivvy everyone out. We go down several flights of stairs, back out into the seating to take more pictures, and another guard is telling everyone to go home. Finally we're out, and start following crowds to one of the 5 Metro stops spaced around the stadium about a 10-minute walk away.
Crowds are thick on the sidewalks. After maybe 15 minutes we get to the Les Corts Metro stop, and there's a huge line on the sidewalk and down into the Metro, and more people sitting around in the plaza and in nearby bars, waiting until the line eases. We head off to a different Metro stop, Maria Cristina. Plenty of people here, too, but without too much trouble we're down onto the platform. A train is at the platform, but it's jammed full of people, doors closed, and it sits there for 45 seconds or more before finally leaving.
It's after 11:30, and the Metro stops running at midnight. Not good.
As usual, the electronic signs here say "2:10 to next train arrival". But they're doing something I've never seen before: counting down 15 or 20 seconds, then jumping back up 15 or 20 seconds. That goes on for several minutes, but eventually a train arrives. It's already about 2/3 full; the Palau Reial stadium stop is upstream of this stop. We hustle onto the train without too much problem, but now it's quite full, and we have to stand of course.
Off to the next stop, Les Corts, and the hordes of people waiting can't get on to tour train. A few get on, the doors stay open for a while, then finally we're off. We go past a couple more stops with no one getting on or off, and it's hot and crowded.
After about 4 stops, a fair number of people get off, and we snag seats. Stop by stop, the crowd slowly thins. Eventually we get to our stop, but we're just connecting to another line, and it's already after midnight. Someone says the Metro runs until 1 AM tonight, which is good news.
But, incredibly, Dora wants to go up to street level and show me some sight ! So we go up, and walk to a hospital where she worked, to see a view of the hills. And the view is lousy, frankly; maybe it's better during the day. More walking, down into the Metro, and we find that no, it really did stop running at midnight.
Back up to the street, across to a bus stop, and fortunately the right bus shows up almost immediately. Onto the bus, a short ride, and we have to get off and get another bus. Which also shows up almost immediately. Off at Virrei Amat, walk home, getting there at 1 AM. To bed.
Took the Metro to Placa Catalunya. Into the Tourist Info, and got a bus route map. There's a line for the real info part of it, even after noon. Walked over to the MACBA and CCCB museums (contemporary art). Lots of skateboarders here, enjoying the wide paved plazas and ramps and alley. But the whole city is like this: lots of concrete ramps, and all of the sidewalk areas are paved from building to curb (no strips of grass).
Into MACBA. Nice building, nice soft chairs and beanbags and sofas to loaf on, but the art is not good. And about 40% of the exhibition space is closed while they change exhibits. I liked a few pieces of the art, and took pictures of them. Nice views from an outside balcony, and some interesting piece of art on a facing building. Pics.
Sat on the comfy sofas and read the bus route map for a while. Saw how to take two buses to get to Parc Guell; that's for another day. Read my book for a little while.
Around the corner to the CCCB museum (more contemporary art), to find out it's closed on Monday's. So I wandered out into streets I haven't been on yet, in the Raval district. Bought a pizza-like pastry thing from a bakery: hot, delicious, filling, and you get change from your €2. Wandered down La Rambla Del Raval (nice, wide pedestrian mall, with far less traffic than the "main" La Rambla, which is 1/3 of a mile from here). Cat-statue is about 9 feet tall. Pics.
Over to a park overlooking Esglesia de Sant Pau del Camp church. (Saw some good grafitti, but I'm guessing the words are rude.) Then around and ducked into the church itself. But they want €2 to tour it, and a quick glance inside seemed to show all it has to recommend it is age. Sat and relaxed outside for a little while, but some old lady was trying to bum some money from me, so I didn't stay too long. Pics.
Through some more streets, and I think I've found part of a gypsy/Roma quarter: pic. Also found the bike-rental places; three of them are in the same few blocks of one street here. To the Boqueria market. Through and around it briefly, then to La Rambla and up, back onto side streets, back onto La Rambla, eventually back to Tourist Info. Still a line, but I stand through it, and get a list of the days of free admission for each museum.
Lots of interesting buildings in this city: pic. Sit in the plaza for a little while, but all of the shaded benches are occupied. Into the Metro, lots of walking and standing and then grabbed a seat, eventually out at Virrei Amat station. Home by 5:40. Tired and little headachey.
The apartment is empty. Dora is doing a 24-hour on-call at the hospital. She left a note to please lock the main apartment door from inside at night. This area seems very safe personally, even late at night, but I think there's a risk of theft/burglary. And the apartment door would make a crack-house proud: it's heavy, solid, has four oversize/overstrength hinges on the inside, plus fingers that engage into the frame when you close it so even pulling out the hinge pins (which are inside the apartment) wouldn't work, and a gang of ten deadbolts into the frame on the opening side. You'd need a tank to get through that door.
And the windows have external roll-down doors over them; you pull a ratcheting strap from inside to raise and lower them. Very secure.
Before bed, still headachey, took a Tonopan.
Into the CosmoCaixa science museum, and the admission is a cheap €4. Long sweeping circular ramp, down and down 4 floors to the bottom. Groups of kids being led by teachers, and small stampedes of kids running everywhere and often shrieking to each other. Kids from tiny 5-year-olds to high-schoolers, and some tourists.
There are sections on nanotech and biotech, which are not very hands-on and a bit dull. Crowds of kids around a couple of robots and a brain-wave machine, the most interesting things. Out onto the main floor, with hands-on exhibits on gyroscopes, pendulums, waves, momentum, etc. Then fossils and hominids. Then aquaria, and one end of the museum is a mangrove-forest environment with glass walls so you can see the roots and lots of fish. Some groupers that are 2-3 feet long and maybe 20-25 pounds, and a few fish that are 6-7 feet long and probably 200 pounds. Catfish, turtles, a small ray, more. Very nice. But you have to work around the hordes of kids. Pics. [The big white block of stuff is ice; the sign said "gel", so I was expecting some kind of high-tech material.]
Up to the next floor, but it seems only floors -2 and -5 have exhibits, and even -2 doesn't have much except for a few dinosaur skeletons and fossils. Eventually I wander out to a picnic area and have some lunch and read a book. Back inside and up, and out onto a big terrace.
Down to the street behind the museum, and I started walking toward Parc Guell. Plenty of interesting buildings along the way, especially near the museum: pics. This is a non-tourist area, pretty busy with cars, but plenty of businesses and people. I buy a meat pastry in a bakery, but it looked more substantial than it actually was. I sit on a chair on the sidewalk and eat it.
Over toward the Parc, and it's hard to find. It's a major tourist attraction, you'd think a couple of the main roads would have signs directing you to the entrances, but no. [When I went again a month later, on the tourist bus, I did see one sign pointing to the park from a major intersection 5 or 6 blocks away.] And it's a confusing area, with non-rectangular layout, a deep valley, lots of hillsides. I don't go too far out of my way, and after some trudging up the hill, I get to a series of escalators that climb the steep part. And into the park.
Lots of tourists here. Trails up and down, mainly up, and people flocking to take pictures of some Gaudi buildings, and various colonnades built into the hillsides, and lots of pictures of each other standing in front of various views. Vendors everywhere with blankets full of trinkets to buy. Pics.
I'm not too impressed. And I'm footsore and tired; it's probably 5+ degrees hotter today than it's been for the last week, so I'm a bit warm. I sit on a shaded bit of a stone wall with a bunch of other people and read my book while listening to some guy play a xylophone-like thing.
I wander toward an exit, out, and then down down down to the main street, and a couple of blocks to the Metro station. Easy ride and connection and ride to Virrei Amat, then walk home. Into the apartment by 4.
When I tell Dora I wasn't too impressed with Parc Guell, she says I must not have seen the nice house on the back side of it, because then I would have been impressed. Maybe.
[And I missed the famous lizard statue. Maybe I'll go again some time.]
[Later, I showed her the pictures I took, and she didn't say "oh, you missed the best part !"]
Good news: we now have a new, much better internet (Wi-Fi) access at the apartment. The SIM-modem-router thing wasn't working too well. [Well, so far the new thing is faster when it works, but it seems to go off and on.]
Dora has printed out a lot of web pages about tourist sites for me, but the print-outs are in Catalan or Spanish.
Loud music starting outside around 5:30; there's some neighborhood celebration going on all this week, apparently. Around 7:30, I went out and watched and listened and took a stroll around the park. Lots of people, a decent band and singers, some kind of older-couples dance-competition going on. Nice. This is a nice, mixed neighborhood. A zillion apartments, but many small stores at street level a block away, this nice big park, plenty of old people, couples with kids, working people, a school at the end of the block, some kind of old-people's home behind our building, 6-block walk to one Metro station, 12-block walk to another Metro station and a train station, the Heron City shopping center about 5 blocks away, etc. Much of Barcelona seems to be set up this way, and it works. I haven't seen any traffic jams, or run-down areas, and the streets are safe even late at night (maybe not in some areas, or some back streets for single women). Of course, walking works here because the weather is mild all year. And the government has overspent (although on useful things such as transport and parks, as opposed to USA's govt which overspends on the military).
Skype-called Mom and chatted with her. Pics.
"Camelot ! Camelot ! Camelot ! (It's only a model.) Shh !" pic
Turns out St George is the patron saint of Catalunya. But somehow I thought the dragon was bigger: pic.
Up to the terrace on top of the museum, and nice views: pics.
Out and walked through the streets of Barceloneta a little, then out to the beach. Hot, and no shade unless you rent an umbrella. Some topless women, and a few of them quite nice-looking. Nice sand, then a strip of pebbles just before the water. I'm not really dressed for the beach, but I took off sandals and socks and rolled up my pants-legs, and got my feet wet in the Mediterranean Sea. As expected, the water is quite cold. But there are a few people swimming anyway. Lots of people sunbathing.
Back into the streets of Barceloneta, which are scenic enough, but not as nice as streets of Raval or Gotti, mostly because the sidewalks here are quite narrow. A couple of okay plazas, a nice food-market, sat a bit in a concrete courtyard surrounded by an apartment complex, then briefly to a park that looks big on the map, but turns out to be disappointing. Pics.
Tried to find a way across to the Ciutedalla Park, but there is none. Back over to the Barceloneta Metro, but walked up into La Ribera. Pics. Sat in a nice plaza (Placa de Palau) for a while. Then wandered streets for a while, and then into the Jaume I Metro station. My T10 card is rejected as defective, but it should have 1 or 2 trips left. No attendant here, so I bought a new T10 card and will mess with the old one later. Into the Metro, and back to the apartment by 3:30 or so.
In the evening, tired and a bit headachey, and got a little too much sun today. I need to slow down a bit.
Sunny by noon. In midafternoon, went out to stretch my legs and maybe get a few groceries. But I couldn't find the Supermercado I've walked past a few times. Into a produce store and bought grapes and cherries. Wanted olives, but I guess they're sold elsewhere. A bakery called to me, so I bought a slice of pizza (pizzeta), and sat in the park and ate it. (Lady serving me in the bakery asked where I was from, and when I said "USA", she sighed "nice".)
Loafed at the apartment. Dora home around 5, we chatted and then napped.
An odd note: I mentioned something about buying things online, from Amazon or wherever, and I don't think Dora has ever done that. I did read online that package delivery to apartments in Barcelona is a problem, so most people have the delivery done to the their offices. But, in this day and age, there are people who have never bought stuff online ?
Out at 9 or so for a stroll, up and around in a big loop, through Heron City Center a little. It stays light from 7 AM to 9 PM or later here, at this time of year. And the streets are well-lit, too.
Out at 11. To Virrei Amat metro stop, and the T10 card rejected as defective a couple of days ago worked fine now. Connect, and to Placa Catalunya. Tourist office has line, so I didn't stay. To the CCCB (contemporary art) museum, which is included on my combination ticket, and it turned out to be worse than expected. Nice building, expensive, but the "art" (at the moment) is lousy (mainly photographs of some artist and his buddies, as far as I could tell), and one floor is closed for exhibit change. The only good point was some comfy armchairs in a darkened room to look at some videoscreens; very relaxing.
Down to MACBA and sat on their comfy sofas for a little while. Then to the Hospital de la Santa Creu, which has a nice garden/pavilion area. Pics.
Onto La Rambla, and tried to find that ticket office for symphony tickets, but only found some other ticket office, which seemed not to be open anyway.
Down to the Museu Maritim. A wooden submarine that actually was used and worked. Lots of intricate ship models (but lighting for photography was bad). A nice big section on Charles Darwin and evolution and skeletons and such, but none of the explanations are in English, and I can't find any connection between Darwin and Barcelona. The museum building is the former dockyard/construction building, and it's gorgeous. There's an enormous (maybe 250 feet long ?) replica of a 15th-century galleon (the rudder looks way too small to me, but I guess they steered partly by having the rowers change their stroke). Pics.
Crossing La Rambla, saw a couple of "living statues": pics.
Along some streets in Barri Gotic, a block in from the waterfront. Looked for and found a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop ("Bo de B": pic) I'd heard about on the internet, and it was great ! Big warm fresh baguette with warm chicken, cubes of cheese, olives, tomatoes, various mystery sauces spritzed on top, €4.50. Sat in a square nearby and pigged out while watching people and traffic.
Wandered up through parts of Barri Gotic, getting turned around a bit, but that's okay. I'm always trying to take streets I haven't been on before, and there are lots of small, twisty streets in the old parts of this city. Some nice artwork on garage doors here. Pics.
Eventually out to the Placa de Sant Jaume (pics). There's a Tourist Info here, and I went in, but there was a line. Down to the small square with the Jaume I metro stop in it. Sat for a while and people-watched.
Eventually, into the Metro. My "defective" T10 card worked again; I think it's empty now. Crowded train to Maragall, connect, to Virrei Amat. They're setting up carnival rides in the placa: pic. Found a supermercado (on Santyani just off Fabra i Puig) and bought some groceries (the small mercados give you plastic bags, but apparently the big supermercados expect you to bring your own). Home by 4.
I thought Dora was gone for 2 days at some medical congress, but ten minutes after I got in, she blew in. First thing she said was "I thought you were going to cook me a chicken dinner !" (She gave me a sheet of recipes for various dishes a few days ago, and I said I'd cook one sometime.) She's leaving NOW to go to the congress, but first dumped a whole lot of stuff on me: more tourist-info printouts, a bunch of movie DVDs (to keep me occupied while she's away, I guess), a couple of books (which later turn out to be in French), a lot of pictures from her trips to Japan and Peru etc. Then she hands me a page about the congress and says "look up directions to my hotel and email them to me"; the congress is in Rome (!). Then she dumps a couple of digital cameras on me, says "these don't work" (I'm supposed to fix them ?).
Then she's out the door. And so is Bryan, leaving an uneaten bowl of spaghetti on the kitchen table (for me ?), and more spaghetti in a pot on the stove; they tend to leave food on the stove in this household. And soon I see chicken in the refrigerator, so I guess she's bought the ingredients for me to cook. Should I put the chicken in the freezer until she comes back ? Or maybe I should cook the recipe and refrigerate the results.
Later in the evening, turned on the TV. About 10 channels, everything in Spanish or Catalan, no English sub-titling, only interesting things are a soccer game and a bad episode of "The Simpsons". Tried one of the DVDs in my laptop, and it plays (I wasn't sure it would), but it's in Spanish, and there are some annoying spikes in the audio (maybe a laptop problem). [Found out later: several of the DVDs do have English versions on them too.]
Out at 12:30. To Metro, to Vall d'Hebron and up five escalators to connect, out at Fontana stop. Down a long block and around a corner, and found an English-language used book store, just where I expected it to be. Nice store, prices not particularly low, got four nice books for €13.70. But this is a store where they don't supply bags, so I have to stuff the books into my small pack and of course carry them for the rest of the day.
Back up past the Metro stop, looking for something on the map called Casa Vicens. But I can't find it, and I'm off the edge of my good map, which will be a problem all afternoon. So I head down some big side-streets, heading toward a park on the map. Into a square with a church, and they're starting some kind of festival, meat on the grill, a stage set up, some music playing, balloons tied to convenient places such as to a statue. Pics.
Onward, and I'm trying to find some fairly big park, but I can't find it. I keep crabbing uphill, none of the streets are on my map, finally give up and just head further along the hillside. Eventually I get to a known location, a Metro stop, and I misjudged the scale of the map, I'm going to be doing a lot of walking. Internet cafe with keyboards all over the door: pic. Building peeking up over the trees: pic.
I find Parc de les Aigues, and it's disappointing. Onward to Jardins del Doctor pla i Armengol (gardens), and they're fenced off and semi-ruined, but there is a soccer game going on at an adjoining field. 18- or 20-year-old guys, and they know how to play. Pic.
Around Hospital de la Sta Creu Sant Pau, and down Dos de Maig street. Nice art on a door: Pic. At least it's downhill, but I'm tired and footsore, and it's a long way down. Finally to Els Encants street market, which turns out to be mostly clothing and electrical stuff. Pics. I buy an AC adapter plug for €2.50.
A long walk around the Placa Glories Catalanes, which is just the underside of a lot of highway connecting ramps. Into the Metro, connect, out at Virrei Amat. Into a shop to buy onions and bananas; couldn't find an open shop selling bread and wasn't willing to go out of my way. Home by 4:45. Tired.
Decided I'd better cook that chicken. Found a baking dish, not as big as I wanted. Ignored the recipe. Put in oil, the chicken, onion, carrots, a bunch of spices (mostly garlic, some paprika, a couple more), soy sauce. Add some water so it doesn't burn on the bottom. Can't find a lid for the dish, or any aluminum foil. Pic. Turned knobs on the oven until it started heating up. Into the oven, temp at about 150C. Will cook it thoroughly.
After 1:15 of cooking, the water is boiling on bottom, a few onion edges burned at top. Turned it a few times to spread the liquid, gave it another 15 minutes, then let it cook some more with the heat off.
Looks good: pic. Ate half of it for dinner. Tasty. Could have used a heavier hand on the spicy paprika.
What a convenient place ! No bread, so before noon I went out to hit an ATM and a bakery. A block and half down to the corner, there's a bank with an ATM, got out &euro100. Two doors from that, a bakery, got a big baguette for &euro1.20. Back to the apartment and made myself a nice salami-and-cheese sandwich: pic.
Did a load of laundry.
Was going to loaf today, but I was looking up more info about museums, and lots of museums have free admission late this afternoon. So I decided to go out.
Out at about 2. Up to Virrei Amat metro, rode to the end of the line, up five escalators to another line, down nineteen stops to the end of that line, Zona Universitaria. Up to the Cervantes Rose Garden, which was fairly nice: pics.
Sat and relaxed for a little while, but it's grey and breezey and cool. Tried to find the Palau Reial de Pedralbes, got totally confused in an area of nice-looking but military buildings (pics), finally realized I was navigating relative to the wrong Metro stop. Wandered past lots of boring university buildings with few people around, eventually found the entrance to the Palau Reial gardens.
Up through the gardens to the Palau, which has three museums in it. Pics. And found this: pic. Oh, well.
Sat and snacked and read my book for a while. Then across the street and around the corner to find the only other nearby landmark on my map, Pavellons de la Finca Guell. Which turns out to be closed on weekends. But it has a really cool entrance and entrance gate. Pics.
Back around to the main street, into the Metro, and a long ride back to Virrei Amat stop. A slight detour to find a restaurant I'll be going to tomorrow. Home by 5:30.
Dora arrived back from Rome a few hours later.
Her verdict on the chicken: tastes good, but carrots in a cooked dish ? She showed the carrots to Bryan, and he didn't even recognize them (but I'm not sure he eats vegetables of any kind anyway).
Hmm, maybe I'll just loaf today. Many museums closed on Mondays, and most of the major things I haven't been to yet are things Dora wants to take me to (Montjuic, Tibidabo, maybe Montserrat) or I'm saving to do with my brother when he's here (Picasso, Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera).
After lunch, went out for about 2.5 hours. Found my way to Fabra i Puig, and found that mercado I'd seen before (on Sant Iscle or Fabra i Puig 270). Up past the restaurant, and it indeed is closed today. Up F-i-P, and found a big hilltop park, Parc Turo de la Peira. Climbed, relaxed on bench, climbed, sat, climbed. Nice views over part of the city from just below the top: pic. View at the top was spoiled by lots of trees (pic); stupid trees !
Down to F-i-P and walked down it. To the big mercado, but it's closed (seemed open earlier) [figured out later: it closes at 2]. To the supermarcado on Santyani, and bought €22 of groceries. Most of the cereal here has chocolate in it, which is fine with me: pic. Only a few tiny jars of peanut-butter available, so I bought a Nutella knock-off for 1/5th the price. Bought some Diet Coke (Coke Light in 8-packs, here); I haven't been having any caffeine or alcohol here, and I'd like to have some. Back to the apartment by 3:15 or so.
Out for a walk around 8 PM for 45 minutes or so.
Grey day, and light rain in the afternoon. Around 11, went out to walk to a couple of local places. To Cementiri Sant Andreu, which turned out to be a pretty amazing place, unlike any cemetery I've seen before. Unfortunately, after I took a few pictures (pics), an attendant came over and said "no photography". In a cemetery ! This city is a little weird that way: non-flash photography allowed in almost every museum so far, but no photography allowed in various unexpected places. Cemetery info and a few small pictures here.
Into the Corte Ingles department store, which is a 7-story building next to Heron City Center. Wandered around, escalators up and up to the top, where the view was carefully blocked off by walls. Down and down, to the supermercado in the basement.
Biggest supermarket I've seen yet, prices seem okay. But I got frustrated: I'm trying to gather ingredients for baking a cake, and they don't seem to have a "baking" aisle. Found vegetable oil myself, had to have a worker lead me to the flour, nothing else I needed was in that aisle or anywhere I could find. And items such as the oil and flour have no English on the labels at all. Gave up, put the stuff back, will have to go shopping with Dora.
On the way back, stopped in a bike shop. Mostly high-end bikes, €1500 to €3000. Cheapest adult bike I saw was €305.
Back to the apartment by 12:45.
At 1:30, met Raul at La Esquinica for lunch. My first real Spanish/Catalan meal: tapas (in this pic I grabbed from a web site, the two dishes in the foreground are exactly what we had). We had a chicken dish (good), a sausages dish (good), a calamari plate (not something I favor), a tomato-on-bread dish (okay), a potato-mayonnaise dish (scrumptious). Good food, and we had a very nice conversation.
Raul was born here, lives in Lesseps district, has been to USA a lot, speaks perfect English. He's been reading my sailboat-cruising blog (here) for about 10 years. We talked about cruising, Barcelona, the Olympics, Spain in general, the Spanish economy, etc. Quite nice. Afterward, to a coffee-shop, then I bought a small flower-plant for Dora. Back to the apartment by 3:30.
Out with Dora around 5. She wants to go to Tibidabo, even though the schedule says most of it will be closed. Stop at a printer-ink shop while she tries to return something, then to the Metro. Connect at Placa Catalunya, and she pulls me through a turnstile so we both get through on one ticket; I'd rather not find out what a Spanish jail looks like. Up out of the Tibidabo Metro station, onto a bus, even though the driver says even the funicular up to the top of Tibidabo is closed. Out at the base of the funicular area, and we wander a little and look at some views and take a few pictures. Pics. Then into a bar for a cup of tea, and to look out the windows at the views. But it's grey enough that none of the pictures were worth keeping. We'll come up again on a sunny day, and go to the top.
We spend over an hour there, then luckily come out just as a bus is arriving. Back down, into the Metro, down to Placa Catalunya. We walked up to the Barcelona University and into it; nice building, with gardens behind. Pics. Students spilling out of some lecture or concert or something. More strolling, into the Metro, out at Fabra i Puig station, wandered a little, bus up the street, walked home. Back into apartment just before 10.
Dora cooked some dinner: chunks of chicken and chunks of potato onto a broiling pan, sprinkle spices and sea salt and a little oil, add maybe 1/2 cup of water, put in oven.
Maybe I unfairly maligned the chocolate cereal yesterday; more chunks of chocolate appeared today: pic.
Dora wants me to meet her at Badalona to bring home a coffee-maker, so I left around 11:15 and headed for the Metro. Can't find my T10 card, which only had 1 or 2 trips left. Bought a new card. Through to Badalona a little after noon. Found the Tourist Info office and got a map; I'm off the territory of my Barcelona guidebook here. Wandered the town for a while. Old part of town is nice, and there are a couple of museums here, and lots of people. The beaches are endless; I imagine there would be tens of thousands of people here on a nice summer day. Pics.
Back to the intersection above the Metro stop around 1:15 or 1:20, and started waiting for Dora. I'm listening to MP3s and peaople-watching; busy area. She said approximately 1:30, but didn't show up until about 2:10. And she already had the coffee-maker; she changed plans and picked it up earlier in the day. It's big and heavy.
I thought she had to work some more, but that's changed too; she's done for the day. Into the Metro, and changing plans as we go. While talking, we miss a stop and have to backtrack. She has to meet someone near Sagrada Familia at 3:30, so she says let's go home, drop off the coffee-maker, then go out, maybe tour the Sagrada Familia cathedral, maybe then to a restaurant. I just want to go home and have a sandwich and then a nap. Finally we split up at La Sagrera metro stop, and I go home. Back to apartment by 3 or so.
Something I meant to mention: a few days ago, walking around the park here, I saw four young guys playing volleyball-soccer. They put up a volleyball-type net, then kick and head a soccer ball back and forth using only soccer rules (no hands or arms). They were very good; it was impressive.
For dinner, Dora heated the leftover chicken-potatoes and we had them with rice.
Then it was time to clean. As I did the dishes, Dora got out some steam-cleaning gadget she bought from a show on late-night TV: pic. Since the kitchen and bathrooms here have tile floors and walls (up to the ceiling; and they have enameled-metal ceilings, too), she went at them with the gadget. No soap, just steam and various attachments, including a sponge-type attachment that accumulates dirt. She really likes it.
After the dishes, I tried removing her little niece's big crayon-drawing of a rabbit from the wall in my bedroom. The internet said one way to do it was with mayonnaise (let it soak), so I tried that on a small portion. And it worked ! Takes a lot of elbow-grease, complicated by a pebble-grained paint on the walls, but it works.
Raining pretty steadily outside tonight.
Dora is a doctor. I don't dare cough or sneeze or something; she'll be right there with cough-syrup or lotion or some other remedy. My migraines (now easily controlled with cheap pills) and any detail of my medical history fascinate her. She's surprised I haven't had a blood test in a decade or more, don't know my cholesterol number, etc. Yesterday, when I said I was tired, she immediately gave me this "fortified drink" she got as a free sample from the manufacturer: pic. Has about 40 vitamins and minerals in it, tastes like a milkshake, probably costs about €6, probably does little except give you sugar and calories.
Loafing today. Out at 1, and low dark clouds are hovering, but it never quite rained. A couple of blocks away, into a bakery to look for a birthday cake for Dora; I gave up on the bake-a-cake project, partly because we don't have a couple of cake-pans. A nice chocolate cake in the bakery, but any tiny bit of Spanish I possess fled from me, and somehow the lady working there couldn't grasp that someone pointing at the cake again and again might want to know how much it costs, she kept telling me it was chocolate. Then a couple of customers came in behind me, and I gave up.
Down the street to the supermercado in the basement of Corte Ingles, but it has no bakery. Out to the street, and found a bakery Dora had recommended. But they don't have any cake of the type she likes (neither did the previous bakery). Back to the previous bakery, asked the question correctly, and bought the cake for €16.25. Took it back to the apartment, then went out again, to buy flowers for Dora. Into the market at Fabra i Puig and Sant Iscle, but it's meat/fish/veggie/fruit. And it closes at 2; they were sweeping up, and pulled down shutters a couple of minutes after I left. A few doors down to a flower shop, bought a couple of pots of nice flowers (pic), back to the apartment.
Dora came home around 4:30, and around 5 we started cooking paella. I was amazed at the heaps of cucumbers and peppers we had to chop up; 2 kilos of cucumbers (more than a dozen 10-inch cucumbers), 1 kilo of peppers, I think. I didn't see where we had enough pans to cook everything, but soon there were all four burners going on the stove. I did pepper-deseeding and cucumber-chopping and saute-stirring.
Turns out we're cooking two dishes: paella for today, some kind of Peruvian sauce (cheese, crackers, cream, peppers, garlic, spices) to have over potatoes some other day(s). Then I found out we're doing three dishes: the third is a big pot of tomato-cucumber-peppers to keep as spaghetti sauce. Then I found out there's a fourth: for the paella, we need chicken stock, but we haven't bought the chicken yet, so Dora is boiling up a hen just to get the stock, and then we'll eat the hen some other day. And we still have to go out to a store and buy chicken to have in the paella today, and we need to buy more tomato sauce to add to the big pot of spaghetti sauce that's simmering. Pics.
Around 7, Dora and I go out. To the other apartment building to pick up her mail. To a local butcher's shop, where Dora buys pork, beef, and a whole chicken. Prices seem cheaper than in USA; we get a lot of meat for €17. To a mercado, but there's a long line. To a supermercado, to buy tomato sauce and a few other things. Back home by 7:45 or so, and the cans of tomato sauce are actually stewed whole tomatoes, so Dora has to mash them to add the juice to the simmering spaghetti sauce.
Then Dora says I'm going to chop up the whole chicken. But she starts to show me how, and then she's just disassembling that chicken very fast. The poor chicken didn't stand a chance. Cut off the head and throw it away. Cut off the neck and keep it. Wings off, skin off, legs off, sides/breasts off, break it open and start sorting through the internals, keeping some, throwing some away. I finally get to do the last couple of leg-joints, but I'm very impressed by her skill and efficiency.
I chop up other meat, and soon everything's into a couple of big pans, several kinds of meat, the chopped peppers, lots of chicken-stock, spices, finally special paella-rice. I do dishes and help stir while the paella boils and bubbles. Seems like we've used every pot in the kitchen and most of the utensils two or three times today; we have to wash and dry them fast and make room for more. And of course any time I've taken out a utensil and started cutting or stirring with it, Dora's stopped me and chosen a different utensil, so we've dirtied lots of extras. Pics.
Finally the food is ready, and Dora has cleared the table in the living room (a major undertaking). Bryan shows impeccable timing by returning from evening-class two minutes after we sit down to eat. A glass of wine, plenty of paella (which is good), and nice conversation. Then they're drinking the Diet Cokes I bought, and Bryan loads us all up with vodka-and-Cokes that are way too heavy on the vodka. Then it's time for the birthday cake, and Dora makes us sing "Happy Birthday" to her. She likes the cake, so that's a success.
Lots of washing up, and we even load the dishwasher, for the first time since I've been here (we've been hand-washing). Done by 11.
Going to loaf today. I think I'm detecting a pattern: a day with Dora, then a day of loafing to recover from the day with Dora. Repeat.
Had a Nutella-and-banana sandwich for lunch. Tasty but sugary.
Out around 1:45. To an ATM, and got out €110 (the pre-programmed amounts were odd: 40, 70, 110, etc). Walked up Doctor Pi i Molist to Parc Central de Nou Barris. It's mostly a district government center. But the buildings are beautiful, there's an old church next door, tree-looking wooden sculptures, pools, etc. Across the street are some building walls painted with interesting graffiti and studded with climbing handholds. Pics.
Sat for a while and read my book and listened to MP3s. On the way back, stopped in a supermercado to buy some juice. Back at apartment after 3:15. Thought Dora was going to be home at 4, but now Bryan says she has to work until tomorrow morning.
Out with Dora at 11:15. Today is International Museum Day, and many/all museums have free entrance. So we went to the Metro, connected, out at Jaume I, down to the Picasso Museum. Into the line, and it started raining, but I had an umbrella. The line moved reasonably well, so we got into the museum. Confusing entrance, guards sending us back and forth until we found the stairs that marked the beginning of the exhibit area. The signs could have been a lot better.
Lots of nice art by Picasso, and a lovely building. But no photography allowed, and when I looked at my camera, I found I'd left the battery in the charger back in the apartment anyway.
The art was nice, but the museum was not as big as I expected, and one whole section was variations by Picasso on some Valesquez painting (which they didn't show a picture of, an irritating oversight). But a nice museum, and we sat and rested for a while.
Out and across and up to the Cathedral area. We stood in a moderate line to get into the Cathedral, then found out the story: every time I've been here, and now, is during the hours of the afternoon when it costs €6 to get in; before and after it's free. So we didn't go in.
Around the corner to the Frederics Mares museum. The first two floors were all religious sculpture and icons, fairly boring. Three or four scenes or poses, repeated 50 times each. Dora has a habit of liking to touch wooden statues and other wooden things in museums; I keep telling her not to. And on one big wooden crucifix, we have to touch both feet, for luck ?
The top two floors were much more interesting: dolls and old bicycles and ironwork and a little armor/weaponry, and lots of miscellanous stuff. But we were getting tired.
Into a bar, and had coffee. Mine was tiny and extremely strong. But the chairs were comfy, and we sat for a while.
Out, and after several tries we found the entrance to the MUHBA (Museum d'Historia de Barcelona). They really need better signs. Nice museum, Roman ruins down one level below the current street level, and lots of displays and a video showing how the city changed over the last two thousand years. At the end, a nice retired church with nice stained glass, but the emphasis was on the outside wall that was used by Franco's firing squads during the civil war.
But Dora is talking about going to the museums on Montjuic tonight, then taking an overnight bus to Valencia, two nights in her sister's house there, then back on Monday. I don't think I'm up for that.
Into the Metro. Back to the apartment by 6. I'm a bit headachey; took a Tonopan. Spaghetti for dinner.
We nap for a while, then look online at trains and buses to Valencia/Castellon. The schedules are inconvenient, and the train would cost €85/person round-trip, and the bus would cost about €45/person round-trip. The house in Valencia has no food, which would be awkward. Dora says Valencia has a couple of museums and nice beaches, but I don't see how it's as good as Barcelona. So we decide not to go, at least this weekend.
Out around 8:30. Metro to Placa Espanya. Tried to walk straight to MNAC, but the X Games and an automobile convention have the usual direct route fenced off, so we had to go well around. And the "magic fountains" aren't running tonight. Swarms of people going the same direction we are. A couple of very hot-looking cars coming out of the automobile convention. Up a couple of escalators and lots of steps to the museum, and stopped to rest for a while on a bench.
Then into the museum, and there are people swarming everywhere, since it's free admission. The place is huge and spectacular, with a huge central auditorium/atrium with a jazz band playing occasionally tonight. Pics of the building.
We listen, then go look at some art, then come back and get a sandwich and soda, and listen to some more music. Dora is wilting, so we rest and look at art and rest some more and look some more. Pics of the art. Earlier, Dora was talking about getting up early tomorrow to catch an early train to Montserrat; now she's saying "let's sleep late tomorrow". And she's taking every opportunity to sit down.
I figured this guy must be the patron saint of bowling: pic.
This painting was my favorite, and amazed everyone who saw it: pic. The picture doesn't do justice to the brilliance of the colors, which is true of many of my other pictures in the museum. No flash photography allowed, and lighting was a little soft for a really crisp photograph of some of the paintings.
[Better photo of that painting: here.]
Finally we've done the whole place, I think, and we rest on a nice leather sofa in the entrance hall, and Dora sleeps for a while.
Then closing time is approaching, and we head out and down a little before 1 AM. Swarms of people going the same direction we are. We get to a N1 night-bus stop at 1:10, wait 10 minutes, and onto the bus. A long ride across town, with Dora sleeping and me unable to see a single street-sign (they're up on the sides of buildings in this city, and so on the far side of wide sidewalks from the street, and the bus is well-lit inside). But I keep track by seeing Metro station signs, and wake Dora up just in time to get our stop. Out and home by 2 AM.
But Dora has different ideas. Around 11, she says "hurry, let's go to Montserrat !" I say "Isn't that an all-day trip ? I'm tired and I want to go to free museums later." She says "No, it will be quick, and we can go to museums afterward."
So I hustle to shower and dress by 11:15, and then start waiting for her to shower and dress. I put in a load of my laundry; I won't be around to put it out to dry, but with all of the changes of plan, I have to do it when I can. I have a cheese sandwich for breakfast/lunch. Finally we're out the door by noon.
To the Metro, to Placa Espanya, and I'm not feeling well. I'm tired and my GI tract is acting up. Fortunately there's a bathroom in the train part of the station.
Then we buy tickets to Montserrat, and there's a lot of confusion. It's a complex combined ticket, we have to decide now on funicular versus cable-car. €52 for two round-trip tickets that should take us all the way to the top of Montserrat.
By the time the train arrives, I'm feeling worse. On the train, I'm feeling queasy and clammy and faint, and my stomach hurts. Dora does a pressure-point massage that helps, and then the train moves out of tunnels and goes aboveground, and someone gets off and we grab forward-facing seats instead of the backward-facing seats we had. I slowly feel better, but my GI tract still is not good.
We arrive at our stop after 45 minutes or so, and fortunately there's another bathroom, and after using it I feel tolerable. Onto the cable-car, even though it turns out our tickets are the wrong kind. Dora is scared before getting onto the car, but fine once we get going. Great views down into the valley as we go up steeply. Pics.
Out at the "monastery" level of Montserrat, and into a line for a funicular to the top. We wait 10 minutes or so, get on, get to the Saint Joan top around 3:30. Another bathroom stop, then we wander around and enjoy the views and the crisp air. We're 60 KM SW out of the station in Barcelona, but we can see to the Mediterranean just south of the city, and the back side of Tibidabo probably 50 KM away. Pics.
After 45 minutes or so, we try to go back down, but the first funicular train is full, so we have to wait another 20 minutes or so. Down to the monastery level. Pics. Dora wants to go up another funicular, to the Cove. Turns out there are two "tops". I say no, it's getting late, that funicular will turn into another 90 minute round-trip, let's see the basilica.
So we go into the basilica, and it's great, we walk right in with no waiting, and we're in the church. Dora has us drink up our water so she can fill the bottle with holy-water from the font. Pics. Then she wants to go see the statue of the patron saint of Catalonya, so instead of sitting comfortably in the church, we're standing in a long, slow line up a narrow side-passage. Eventually up steps and then narrow steps into the shrine room. The statue and everything around it is gaudy and glitzed-up to the max, and totally uninteresting to me. But it has lots of religious significance for Dora.
Down and out, and there are banks and banks of candles to buy (€2) and light. Dora does one.
I'm really starting to drag. To the funicular for going home, but the next train won't leave until 6:15, another 45 minutes. So we go off to another building with great views, a cafeteria, and deluxe bathrooms. We have a coffee and some nibbles, then back to the station by 6.
The funicular down is big and comfy and not full. Out at the train station, and only a 10-minute wait. Everyone crowds onto the train, but Dora smartly led us to the front car, which doesn't get anywhere near full. At the cable-car stop, it does get full.
A long but comfortable train ride back, through rain and dark skies. I doze as much as possible; I'm tired and my stomach still is hurting, and so is my back.
Dora was reading a newspaper, and I asked her if people here blame the Germans or Angela Merkel for the economic problems, and they do and she does too. They don't like the German austerity requirements. I tried to point out that maybe Spanish spending and govt are to blame, and maybe they don't have to listen to the Germans if they don't want more loans from the Germans, but I don't think I made much of an impression on her. She also thinks it's bad that if a doctor goes from Spain to Germany, she can make a much bigger salary in Germany, but not as big as a German doctor usually makes. I don't see how that's bad for her.
To Placa Espanya station, and one pleasant surprise: our combo tickets also are 6-ride Metro tickets, so worth about €10 right there.
Longish Metro ride to Fabra i Puig station, then out into fairly heavy rain. Into the apartment by 8:15 or so. Bathroom and rest and food and an ibuprofen make me feel a bit better.
We're going to rest today. So of course Dora wants to clean the apartment, move tables and rugs, hang curtains, etc. And her son isn't going to help at all, so I help.
Around 3:30, Dora is cooking amidst the chaos. We have a nice meal of wheat-soup with pork in it, fancy rice with a little smoked meat, a tamale with some pork in it.
Afterward, more furniture-moving and cleaning.
Then it's 4:30, and it turns out Dora is flying out at 7:30 to a medical conference at Tenerife until Friday. I was going to work on her laptop, tablet and mobile phone tonight. I've found out that she has no backups of any of her information, and the tablet and phone are saying "out of memory" every time she tries to take a picture.
So, while she packs and maybe goes out to print something (new ink cartridges don't work in her printer, something else I might try to fix), I look at her laptop and tablet. Laptop running Windows Vista has 40 GB used, 250 GB free on disk, so that's good. Table is a Dell Streak 7 running Android. Everything is in Catalan language.
I connect a USB cable between laptop and tablet, some software installs, tablet appears as a disk drive to the laptop. Sure enough, your tablet isn't going to work too well if the 12 GB disk has 310 KB free. Some fumbling around to find where her pics and videos are on the tablet, then I find them. Apparently she's in the habit of taking video everywhere, especially at medical conferences, and never looking at it again. I start going through the videos, and they're mostly crap. Taken from six rows back in a seminar, without a tripod, they're shaky and the presenter's slides are half washed-out and the audio is almost useless. Often she forgot to pause recording when she put down the tablet, so she has hundreds of MB of garbage views in there. Some videos are 2 MB, some are up to 700 MB. I skim through them, move some videos to the laptop, delete a lot. I tell her she should put down the tablet and just pay attention in the seminars and take notes. Or rest the tablet on the desk to steady it while taking video.
Then around 6:30, Dora tells me there's an overbooking problem, the other apartment is full or soon will be full (news to me), two more people are coming in a couple of days, will I move out of my nice room here and into her much smaller messy room for a couple of days ? No, I like my room, and she and the guy who helps her rent the apartments should deal with their situation. I think she's been telling her son to move out of his room to a sofa, and he's saying no. I suggest she put the two new people in her small messy room. And she's going to be out of town when they arrive. Not good. She goes out to an internet place to print her stuff.
When she comes back, she says the people probably aren't coming, but then gives me keys to give to them if they do come. And I think she's discussing it with her son. And trying to straighten up the small room. So, who knows ?
Around 7:30, walked Dora down to the Metro, carrying her small suitcase for her. She'll be back Friday afternoon. I take a walk around on the way back, but no big food stores are open. Plenty of people on the streets, though, despite pretty cool temperature. Back home. The apartment is a bit of a mess, carpets piled up in the kitchen, papers and stuff piled up in the hallway. Will be interesting if more people come to stay.
At 9:15, heard that Dora missed the plane to Tenerife and is coming back. She arrived back by 10:45. She was too late for the flight, and had printed her ticket online too late also, so that was going to cost her an extra €70 or something somehow.
I spent a lot of the time browsing a phone/computer catalog that Dora picked up. She's been complaining about money, but between her and her son, they have two laptops, two smartphones, at least one tablet, at least a couple of dumb-phones, Wi-Fi, and three TV's (no cable) in the apartment. She's probably paying €150/month in contracts for all of this.
Dora's laptop battery is down to 0%; charger wasn't plugged in all the way when she used it last night. I start trying to fix Dora's printer/copier/scanner. Okay, the new ink cartridges were installed in the wrong order; fixed that. Now it prints an alignment page every time it's turned on, but won't scan it to do the alignment, and won't copy. But: it will print from the laptop ! That's 99% of the battle.
The next thing: Dora wants me to go to Tenerife with her for the last 2 days of the medical congress, and I'll impersonate a male doctor-friend so he and Dora's female friend can get attendance certificates, and we'll use the hotel room reserved for them, and we'll see Tenerife. No, thanks. I can't count the number of things that could go wrong with that. But it would be interesting to see Tenerife.
Got the scanner/copier working. Got the tablet charging again. Dora seems to have fixed the real-estate problem for her sister.
Went out to a supermercado a few blocks away, but forgot to take a bag with me, so could carry back only a limited amount of food.
I think Dora is trying to do a plane ticket for just herself to Tenerife, and something is going wrong. I'm not surprised.
Big dinner at 3:30 or so: chicken-pasta soup, noodles with mushroom sauce, a little chicken.
Tried to connect Dora's mobile to the laptop, but she says the cable stopped working for charging, and I confirmed it doesn't work for this either. So I can't fix her mobile, which has the memory completely full with pictures. And hasn't been backed up. I did find that her laptop has anti-virus software, and ran a virus scan.
Did some more chores: Figured out why a room light wasn't working. Need to go to a hardware store to find a solution for curtain-rod holders that pulled out of a wall. Installed cloud backup software on Dora's laptop and backed up some files.
Went for a walk around 8 PM. Down past the fire station and found a nice big triangular park I hadn't seen before. Down towards Meridiana, and lots of people running on a track, a couple of guys throwing the discus, lots of others jogging on walkways along the street, a soccer field with lots of separate groups training.
On the way back, stopped at a bakery to pick up a baguette. Pointed to one I liked in the case, and the woman wouldn't sell it to me ! Instead, she held up one shaped quite a bit differently, longer and thinner. I'd rather have the first one, but she won't sell it to me, so I shrug and buy the other. My best guess: the one in the case is old (this morning) and for display, and she sold me another fresh out of the oven. Went home and had a cheese sandwich, and it was quite nice. Dora laughed when I explained the bakery situation to her.
At 11, suddenly Dora is off to the airport. She's been unable to get tickets online, or to get an answer on the phone, but she's off.
I happen to look over Dora's shoulder as she looks in her Yahoo Mail to see if more renters are coming. She has 1961 messages in her Inbox, multiple folders with lots of other messages, a Spam folder with lord-knows-how-many messages. Oick.
Out around 12:30. To a chocolate cafe for a chocolate-and-churro breakfast. My chocolate was almost the consistency of pudding. Delicious. Pic.
To the Metro. To Placa Espanya, and caught the 150 bus up onto Montjuic. Hot, sunny day. Off at the Fundacio Joan Miro. Which turned out to be expensive (€11) and disappointing. Some interesting art, but most of it was dull. Some okay stuff on the roof terrace: pics. Had something to drink in the cafeteria, then outside to walk in the gardens, which were pleasant. But what idiot put a Wi-Fi tower right in the middle of the garden next to the Joan Miro building ? Pics.
Along the street to the other end of Montjuic, and into Poble Espanyol. Another expensive ticket at €11. I expected lots of artisanal workshops and demonstrations, but the place is mostly expensive trinket shops. Okay, they're high-class, well-made trinkets and jewelry and glass and foods and leathers and fabrics. Pics. But I paid to get into here ? A couple of very scenic shops and workshops (masks, glassblowing), but those all have "no photography" signs everywhere.
A free contemporary art museum, which turned out to be fairly nice, with a dozen or more works by Picasso, but again no photography. Pics. An atrium with a wonderful three-story mobile hanging in it; hard to photograph: pics. Lots of scenic alleys and buildings in here, representing architecture from all of the provinces of Spain, but not much better than strolling in Barcelona's old town for free. Pics.
There's a big dinner-concert for some pistachio and almond grower's association in the main plaza; we saw a briefing for the waiters when we first entered. Now the attendees are arriving. Dora wanted to stay and hear the music, but I'm pretty sure there would be speeches and a video first, and they show no sign of getting started any time soon. Eventually we leave, seeing that attendees are greeted by a line of waiters offering drinks. Pics.
Down to Placa Espanya Metro station, with moderate rain, but fortunately we have an umbrella. Metro to Fabra i Puig. On the walk home, we stop at a fruit store, then a hardware store. Then a bread store, where Dora gets two baguettes for less than what I paid for one yesterday evening. And the bakery I went to yesterday has a 2-for-1 sign today; I don't know if I got ripped off yesterday or it's just that all of them have a sale today.
Home by 8:15. I'm tired and a bit headachey.
Later, more headache. Took an ibuprofen and then a paracetamol.
Into a pavilion area, then through into the main church. Nice grottos/chapels all around the sides, and then a huge open space in the middle. Pics. Elevator to the roof costs €3; maybe I'll do it when my brother is here. I sit and listen to MP3s and people-watch for quite a while. In the groups of schoolkids, every single one has a camera or phone-with-camera, and they're all clicking away.
Around 12:30, I go out and wander over toward La Rambla. Even in the side-streets, there are groups of people clogging things up. Up La Rambla a little, then across to MACBA, where I sit on the comfy sofas for a while and listen to MP3s and read my book.
Then up to the University. Got €110 out of an ATM there. I wander around a bit, just exploring, then after a long search I find a bathroom. I want to go into the gardens, and into the art museum, but both seem to be closed today. Some event going on in the gardens, and some big hand-made banner in front of the art museum, and the doors are closed and locked. I sit and snack and loaf for a while.
Into the Metro, out at Fabra i Puig, and I stop in the train station to check out fares to other towns.
Back to the apartment around 2:30. A nice rice-lentils-porkrib lunch with Dora. Then at 3 she announces she's off to the airport to try to go to Tenerife again ! Good luck.
By 9, I guess Dora made it onto a flight to Tenerife, since she's not back.
I go in the kitchen to find a package of raw chicken livers and a couple of containers of leftover rice and paella on the counter. I guess I'm supposed to cook it for dinner, so I do. Not bad.
Spoke too soon: Dora came back just before 10. Her friend was late picking her up to drive to the airport, then a traffic accident created a backup, and she arrived at 3:40 for a 4:15 flight and they said it was closed. So now she has a ticket for the same flight tomorrow.
With the new cable she bought today, I connected Dora's mobile (smart-phone) to her laptop, and sure enough, the mobile's 10 GB main memory had 0 bytes free. I moved all of the pictures and videos to the laptop disk, and that fixed the problems: now the mobile is able to connect to internet, take more pictures, etc. pic.
Dora's off to the airport at 2:30, I go with her on the Metro. I thought we both were getting off at Espanya, but she decided to go to the end before catching a bus, and wanted me to go with her to the end of the Metro line. So it was about 3:45 before I got back to Espanya.
Out and up to the Caixa Forum, a free contemporary art museum. Except it turns out that about 2 weeks ago, it stopped being free ! So I left without going in.
Up to the magic fountain area below Montjuic. Nice view of MNAC: pic. Thought of going into the Pavello Mies van der Rohe, but I don't know which side the entrance is on, there are no signs to tell you that, and the building is enormous; I'm not going to circle it to find the entrance. Walked along one side, could see another side, gave up and headed E along the lower edge of the Montjuic bluff.
Soon found myself in front of the Museu d' Arquelogia de Catalunya, and decided to go in. €3 admission, and a very sleepy museum. Some nice archaelogical stuff, but all of the signage is in Catalan. Pics. A big section on makeup and perfumes over the ages, with lots of old bottles. Upstairs, some more photogenic archaelogical stuff. Pics.
Nice theater across the street: pic. Wandered along the edge of Montjuic. Up to terrace below the Greek Theater, with views over the buildings, and a sleepy cat: pics.
More wandering. Nice views down some of the side-streets: pics. Up to a nice park a bit of view over the rooftops: pic.
Then down Carrer Nou de la Rambla. Some nice pedestrian side-streets, but I'm running out of steam for today. A couple of nice murals on doors: pics.
I glance into the open door of a casino (there are a couple of them along this street), and see that much of the floor is an area with signs saying "you must show your passport to enter this area". Does that mean certain types of gambling are off-limits for locals ?
Down to La Rambla, which is bustling as usual. Into Drassanes Metro station, connected, out at Virrei Amat, home by 6:45.
Was using my laptop, flipped the light switch next to it, and got a nice pop and spark out of the switch. Bulb in overhead light has burnt out. Thought for a moment my laptop power adapter had fried.
The first is a hearse / funeral carriage museum. A block from the Metro stop, I start seeing several cemetery and funeral-type businesses; this must be the right district. But when I find the right address, it's some funerary trade association building or something, and they say the museum moved to somewhere on Montjuic many months ago.
Down through some fairly deserted streets. Lots of nice murals on doors: pics.
Over to the back side of Parc de la Ciutadella. Wandered into something that looked like a university building, but nothing interesting there. A tram: pic. The park doesn't seem to have an entrance on this side. Around to one of the city sides of it, and in.
Terrific fountain area, with lots of people and activity. pics. The big fountain/monument complex is "La Cascada con el Carro de l'Aurora" (The Waterfall with Aurora's Carriage).
Now, there's something you don't see every day: pics. It's stone, supposedly life-size, and it's been here for more than a century.
Down to the zoo area, and then out. Looks like the Antic Mercat del Born market is closed for reconstruction. More nice murals on doors, and other sights: pics. A lot of wandering to find the address of another obscure museum, Metronom / Fundacio Rafael Tous. I find the address, but it's "for let".
Off to find a third museum, Fundacio Joan Brossa. I find the address, and the FJB is behind a cafe, but it's all locked up and looks like some kind of live theater at €16 per performance or something. No English on the signs.
I sit in Born and loaf for a while, snacking and reading. Then wander down to Esglasia de Santa Maria del Mar church. Lots of people here, and I sit for a little while, but don't feel like paying €3 to go into the church. I wander over to the Jaume I metro station, seeing some interesting things on the way: pics.
I sit in the Jaume plaza for a while. Then into the Metro, connect, out at Virrei Amat. Into a store for a few groceries, then home a little after 5.
The streets are a bit deserted; I hope it's not some holiday I don't know about. But there are people in the Metro, and plenty of people after the first couple of stops.
Longish ride to Palau Reial stop. Walk down to a circle, find a bus stop, get bus up the street to the monastery. It's a shorter ride than I expected, and of course there's no stop at the monastery, there's one short of it, before you know you should get off, and one past it, so you have to walk back.
Into the Monestir de Pedralbes. It's free today from 3 to 8, which is why I'm here. Nice place, some interesting art and artifacts. A couple of nuns seen. Interesting video of how they made the paintings on the walls. Pics.
Out of the monastery, and I'm going to walk to a big park along the edge of the hills. Nice building nearby: pic. But one block over, one block up, and there's an entrance to the park ! I guess the map isn't quite to scale in this area.
And the park itself isn't nearly as big as I expected from the guidebooks and web sites. I guess "big park" doesn't mean the same here as it does in USA. Nice walking trails, a corral with small ponies that kids can ride, a playground for kids. But by waiting for Dora, I missed the miniature steam train, which runs from 11-2 on Sundays. And I find the steam-train terminal, but all the trains are locked away and there's nothing to see. Pics.
Out of the up-hill exit of the park. Nice view of a big antenna and Tibidabo: pic. I wander down to the main road. At a circle, there's a bus stop, but not the bus number I need. And no other bus stop in sight in any direction. I cross the circle, and see a bus coming up past me, but it's not the number I want. Then I realize the name on it, Virrei Amat, is the name of the place I want to go to. So I run back across the street to the stop, and get on.
As I expected, it's a long, slow ride to get home. But it's fun to see all of the people and shops and streets as we make a shallow U-shaped way toward home. Got on at 5:15, off at 6:15, and I'm surprisingly footsore as I walk home.
And Dora is home. She arrived back around 4:15, after a day that started at 4 AM. Turns out on Friday when she left, she made the flight to Tenerife by the skin of her teeth, almost missing it. Saw her sister for about 10 minutes in Tenerife. Had a nice time at the congress and the hotel. Brought back lots of swag from both, and stuff her sister gave her.
Around 8:30, out with Dora for dinner. Not too many restaurants open nearby, but we found a Turkish place (Durum Kebap, Fabra i Puig 97) down near the Meridiana end of Fabra i Puig. I was expecting a cheap kebab joint, which they did have upstairs, but we went downstairs to a nice dining area, then into a semi-private room in the back, which we ended up having all to ourselves. Had to take off our shoes, and sit on carpets, at a low table. Nice music playing, a lot of good food, a really nice time. The light was a little low for photography, but I took some pictures anyway: pics.
[I'm an idiot: I always forget to take pictures of the food ! But isn't the internet great ? Not even remembering the name or address of the restaurant, I found it online. Here are pictures of the restaurant and food: pics, and one of the dishes we had is this one (a lot bigger than it looks in the picture; shredded chicken with goat-cheese etc).]
Back home by 11:15.
Looking at my bank account online, I see that my bank is charging a 1% foreign transaction fee on ATM withdrawals here. Not too horrible. But the fees didn't show up right away after my first transaction showed up, which was a little deceptive; for while I thought there was no fee.
Out again at 2:30, mainly just to get out of the apartment and get some exercise. Pic seen while walking. Up to Nou Barris govt center, and found the Biblioteca (library). As far as I could tell, the only thing in English in the whole library was one magazine, so I read that magazine (very latest issue of Time magazine).
Pork-ribs and potatoes for dinner with Dora.
Out around 7 with Dora. We walked (lots of people out walking), and went to several stores, eventually buying a couple of bottles of alcohol. Back at 9. I'm tired.
Dora never cooks one thing at a time. While the ribs were cooking this afternoon, she was making a big pot of lentil soup, which I thought we were going to eat this afternoon. But tonight at 9:30, she's finishing cooking that, and also cooking some broccoli for pasta tomorrow. Why not just wait and cook it when you need it ? And as usual, she started something cooking and forgot about it.
While she was cooking, I was cutting up some mangoes and mixing them with Bailey's Irish Cream, a recipe a friend of hers told her about. It turned out to be pleasant, but maybe would have been better if we had blended it less. pic.
Out at 12:45. To Metro, connect, out at Paral.lel stop. I want the 21 bus to the cemetery, but can't figure out if I'm on the right side of the street. Ten-minute wait, bus comes, ask driver, I'm on wrong side. Cross street, wait another ten minutes, same bus with same driver comes, I get on. Off at Cementiri del Sud-Ouest (AKA Montjuic Cemetery). There's the funeral-carriage museum, but it's locked up tight with no signs about hours or price or anything: pic.
Into the cemetery, which occupies the whole hillside and up over onto the other side. Lots of interesting statuary and tombs and such. But no photography allowed; what is it with Spanish cemeteries and no-photography ? Pics.
The place is pretty deserted; some workers at one end, and much later I see a couple other tourists. I head for the hilltop. Nice views over the commercial harbor and airport: pics. I go down the back side of the hill, hoping there's an entrance/exit to the main part of Montjuic, the museums part. I even looked on Google Earth before coming here, to see if there was an exit; it wasn't clear. But no, there's no exit, and nothing interesting over here, just more banks and banks of those recent high-rise tombs. So I have to go back up and then all the way down to the sole exit.
A bit of a hunt for the bus stop to go back. It's on the other side of a major highway, near the busy entrance to the container-port, and I have to search and then ask someone to find that it's a couple hundred meters up an off-ramp. But in only a few minutes, the bus comes flying past on a different off-ramp, I figure it has to make a loop to get to this stop, and it does. I get on, and it's the same driver I saw twice earlier ! I don't know if he recognizes me; he looks a bit zoned-out.
Into town, off near the Museu Maritim. I walk some back-streets over to La Rambla, seeing some interesting murals on the way: pics.
Up La Rambla (some nice art: pic), and it starts raining, but never rains too hard. All the way up to Placa Catalunya, into Tourist Info, and try to clarify the free-museum-times listing I got here weeks ago. The guy helping me agrees it's a mess, I tell him about the change in CaixaForum, and I think he might actually improve the list a little when he gets a chance. He prints out some info for me, but it doesn't look too useful.
Into the Metro at Catalunya, crowded, connect, crowded again, out at Virrei Amat. Home by 4:30 or so. Tired.
Out to a store two blocks away with Dora at 6, because her son has eaten half the pasta we were going to cook for our dinner. And the apartment is short of food because Dora is short of money at the end of the month. I've been paying a lot of the grocery bills lately.
Nice dinner with Dora: pasta-and-broccoli, soup with a hard-boiled egg, cheap red wine.
Later, had a headache. I think wine doesn't agree with my head. Pics. Wandered through the park and sat for a while.
Back to the Metro station and then past it. Looked for a museum that's on my map, but couldn't find it. Wandered further, and I'm at the edge of my map, where only about one street in ten is named. But I generally want to go downhill, which is good. Finally found Lisboa. Stopped halfway down it, into a bakery, and bought the most chocolate-intensive thing I saw. Sat on a bench and ate it.
Wandered further downhill, eventually onto Passeig Maragall, up Burbo to Placa Virrei Amat. Things seen along the way: pics. Back home by 4, tired and footsore.
Dinner with Dora: pasta, veal patties, lentil soup.
Foolish me, thinking we could get up at 6:30 and out by 7 to get a 7:23 train. Couldn't get Dora out the door until 7:10. We ran-walked to the Metro station, carrying her two bags (?), through to Clot station, ran-walked through it to the train platforms, and missed the train by 3 to 5 minutes. Next cheap train to Figueres is 2 hours later. More expensive train is 1:05 later. So we bought tickets for that one (€30 for two one-way tickets), and ate some food in a station cafe.
Onto the train at 8:31. It's a medium-speed, semi-express train (Media Distance). We hit a top speed of 140 KPH (84 MPH) at one point, 120 KPH a couple of times. And the seats are nice, pull-down tray to make a desk for you, pull-down shades on the windows, lots of leg-room, etc. A bit of a panic as Dora seems to have lost her mobile (smart-phone) or left it home, but eventually she finds it in a pocket. The scenery is mostly greenery, but a couple of interesting towns go by. Girona looks nice, and is on our list for another day. Up to Figueres by 10:15.
At Tourist Info, I just want a map, but Dora does her usual grab-two-of-everything-and-ask-four-questions thing, then disappears into the bathroom for a while.
An interesting thing on the street: pics. Stop at an ATM and get €100. To the Dali museum by 10:45 or so, €24 for two tickets, and it's crowded. I can see that it could get more crowded, but it's uncomfortable today, with lots of students or college-age students barging everywhere, and several big guided groups.
But the museum and the art are wonderful. Pics. [That car in the middle has a mannequin driver, and it's raining inside the car; the woman on the hood and pulling the sailboat is a queen of Catalunya.] Dali painted in several different styles, and experimented with stereo/mirror paintings, did Japanese screens, jewelry, sculpture, etc.
At the end, we sit and rest on an outdoor terrace for a while. Then around the corner to the Dali Jewels (jewelry) museum (no extra charge), which also is pretty nice, but the light is a bit too low for good photography. Pics. Out of it and back in to use the bathrooms, which are behind an unlabeled door, so a guard has to guide us to them. There were long lines for the bathrooms inside the Dali Museum.
Out and looking for a place to have lunch. And we chose badly. A place that said "€5 for this long menu of the day", but inside everything was "or" instead of "and", different waiters had different ideas of what the rules were, and we got zapped with extra charges. The first course, pork with zucchini, was cold (by design) and pretty poor. The beef-and-potato course was fairly good. Games such as "yes, bread is included, but we didn't bring any, because you didn't ask for it". Coffee versus dessert, when they didn't tell us dessert was included whereas coffee was extra charge. We got out for €14.50, which was a rip-off. Pics.
And Dora is nagging me, earlier saying we should go to the beach too today (a bus ride from here, probably 10 KM), and now saying we should make a side-trip to La Jonquera (about 20 KM from here). As far as I can tell, the only reason to go there would be that there's a hospital where Dora was once offered a job. I say no to both ideas.
And then Dora's sunglasses are missing. She goes back to the lunch place, no sign of them. Later she's thinking she did leave them there, and a waiter snagged them.
Off to the Castle ("Castell de Sant Ferran"; €6 for us to enter), which turns out to be a lot of big scenic buildings and walls, with some nice views over the valley, but no interesting contents to look at. Pretty deserted, too. A dozen or so deer lying around or munching peacefully in the middle of the day. Pics.
Back into town, past the back side of the Dali museum, which is spectacular: pic. To the technology museum ("Museu de la Tecnica de l'Emporda"; €6 for us to enter), which turns out to be pretty great. The lady running it is very helpful and nice, and we're the only visitors. The ground floor has bicycles and scooters and a gorgeous Hispana-Suiza motorcar and various scales and gramophones and such. Second half-floor has lots of wood stoves. Third floor has many grandfather clocks and sewing machines. Fourth floor has many typewriters, and more sewing machines. Pics. Then back down and we talk to the lady for a while, and she makes a couple of tower-type clocks strike the hour so Dora can hear them. She says every clock and sewing-machine in the place is in working condition, which is amazing.
Out of the museum at 5:35, and I know there's a 5:58 train back to Barcelona. Fortunately Dora is willing, so with a stop to pick up a durum kebab and sodas, we're to the train station. An irritating wait in the ticket line as the two people in front go over something at length with the ticket seller, but we have plenty of time. Finally get our tickets (€24 for two one-way tickets), onto the platform, soon onto the train.
The kebab and sodas really hit the spot; I'm starting to think all of my meals in Spain should be from kebab or sandwich shops, or at the apartment.
A longer trip back than the trip out this morning, because this is a local (Regional) train, slower and making every stop. Back to Clot station a little after 8, home by 8:25. Tired.
I figure I paid about €70 today and Dora paid about €30, which is okay. I've been a little concerned that she sees me as a rich American. She's been pressing me to take her to a Julio Yglesias concert, but I'm saying no. Any interesting event I might go to, she invites herself along, probably with me paying. She keeps coming up with ideas for overnight trips that involve hotel stays, etc, and I'm saying no. But she's nice, helpful, I like her a lot, and she works hard and deserves some fun. So I don't mind too much.
But I must say this (today and previous days) is a reminder of why I like being single. Everything today was three times more difficult because I wasn't by myself. Missed train, a lot more stuff to carry, more expenses, harder to navigate through towns and museums, harder to make decisions, more stress. Minor things such as no chance to read my book or listen to MP3's, because I was with someone. Sounds harsh, I guess, and I do like Dora a lot, but there it is.
Around 4, dinner with Dora. Rice-and-carrot, hen-and-potato, and orange-slice-with-cinnamon for dessert. Pic.
Out with Dora at 5:30; we're going to make a stop and then go to a huge shopping mall. But one stop turns into three stops with a Metro trip and a fair amount of walking and waiting inbetween. Fortunately I had my MP3 player. Funny store sign: pic.
Around 7:30 we're on a bus to the mall. Construction diverts the bus a little, and we have to walk a couple of blocks to the mall.
It's La Maquinista, an enormous four-story indoor/outdoor mall with all kinds of fancy clothing and shoe stores, and Carrefour, an enormous Walmart-like store. Plus an electronic store similar to Best Buy, and probably a bunch of other stores I missed. Took only a couple of pictures: pics. We wander and then stop in a Jamaica coffee shop for coffee and cheesecake. More wandering, Dora looking in shoe stores, but she's in no-buying mode. We rest on some comfy chairs in a lounging area for a while. They even have power outlets for your portable devices, and free Wi-Fi, I'm sure.
We wander some more, but shops are closing down. Dora goes into the second floor of Carrefour, but they're lowering the shutters behind us, and we have to walk around to get out.
Then some confusion about where the return bus stop will be, given the nearby construction, and we do some extra walking inside the mall before we're out. Then we have to walk 1/3 of a mile or so to find the bus stop. Five-minute wait, the bus comes, and we're home by 10:45.
Did some hand-sewing to fix a broken strap on one of Dora's purses; when she saw it, she burst out laughing. Pic.
Out at 12:45 with Dora, to a nearby grocery store for a big run. Bought three heavy bags of groceries, €45 minus a €3 coupon, and I chipped in €20. Lugged the groceries home at 1:30.
Replaced bulbs and put shade on overhead light in Dora's room. Took apart her steam-iron, which has a broken casing and she says sometimes sounds like it is sparking, but I could find no problems: no leaks, no bad-looking wiring, no shock hazard, etc. Just a smashed corner of the plastic casing. [But later, she uses it, soon it's getting too hot, she lets it sit for a while, tries it again, and no heat at all. May be dead. I don't think it's anything I did. Will have to look at it again.]
Dinner around 4. Rice and mushrooms and hen-and-potatoes. Pic.
Tried to diagnose the non-working TV in Dora's room. Got some life out it: got the remote and the audio working. But I think the screen is dead, and there's probably a DVD stuck in the DVD-player slot. And there doesn't seem to be a physical-eject pinhole for the DVD player.
Scraping off the stickers on the windows and sliding doors; they were never removed after the windows etc were installed. I'm using rubbing alcohol and a razor blade; works like a charm.
I try to install a backup application on Dora's smart-phone, and installation fails, and then she tells me she's been getting no-free-memory messages again, because she's filled the phone with pictures and videos again. I emptied it to the laptop on the 23rd. I hook it up to the laptop again, and sure enough, in a week, she took another 13+ GB of pictures and video ! [At one point in Figueres, we were looking at a train-schedule sign and wanted to remember the times; I had some of them written down; Dora managed to take 5 illegible pictures and a 34 MB video of the sign.] Trying to do something rational with that situation is a losing battle.
Out for a stroll with Dora at 10:30 PM. Earlier, we'd talked about going downtown, but then watched a DVD and took a long nap and changed our minds. Now, all of sudden, she's talking about it again, and it sounds like a plan that will keep us out until 4 AM. I'm not up for that. We wander through Nou Barris park, get a bit off-track, eventually wind our way to the top of the park with the cross on it off Fabra i Puig. After a while, back down and home by 1:35 AM.
These hours are rough on me, up early one day and then out late another. I'm used to my nice routine on the boat, awake at 6 or 7 and asleep at 9 or 10. I never have been a "stay up to the early AM" type of person.
Today's my birthday ! 55 years old. But if I stay in Barcelona, trying to keep up with Dora, I don't think I'll see 56. Groan.
My favorite cartoons about ageing: cartoon1 and cartoon2.
Around 12:30, Dora and I go out to a couple of small stores a block away, to get a few more groceries. For my birthday, I'd be happy with spaghetti with the sauce that's been in the freezer for the last 2 weeks, and the sausage we bought yesterday. And Dora wants to bake a cake. But she also wants to make some other dessert-type thing we'll eat all week, and some Peruvian potato-olive-sauce thing instead of spaghetti.
So we get back and all three of us start working on the cake. Which is far more difficult than I expected. Separating egg yolks and whites, whisking up a meringue, lots of mixing of flour and chocolate etc. Pics. (I notice that the eggs have serial numbers on them; I wonder how they get the hens to do that ?) Bryan does much of the work, and I keep ducking out to work on Dora's mobile (something is wrong with the SD card in it), and then scraping more stickers off windows.
It's about 2:15 when the cake goes into the oven. I hope it doesn't rise so much that it overflows the pan. And it turns out they've made two big cakes, because Bryan doesn't like an all-chocolate cake, or some such reason.
Then making the meal, peeling potatoes and blending up a sauce etc.
Dinner around 4:30, and Bryan took one bite and said it was too spicy for him, and went and made his own dinner in the kitchen. Dora and I had a nice meal, and the chocolate cake was very good. Pics. Lots of cleanup afterward, even though I did a fair number of dishes during and after the cake-making too.
Out with Dora around 6. Museums have free entrance this afternoon and evening, so we're off to the Museu Blau. Long Metro ride, we get out at Maresme-Forum stop, and we're disoriented. It's the usual story: we ask 2 or 3 three people nearby, and no one has ever heard of such a place. Then I realize it's in the Forum building, someone directs us to that a diagonal block away, and when we get there, "Museu Blau" is on the building in letters 5 feet tall. A few interesting murals on the way: pics.
Into the museum around 6:45, and at first it's disappointing. Some nice little robots and metal-sculptures, and a tepid video about science. But then we get to some interesting fossils, and then to nice skeletons and taxidermed animals and some minerals and such. A lot of times the light was too low for decent photography. Pics. Then the place is closing, at 8, and we're out.
To the waterfront, which has lots of people lounging or running or biking. Eventually down onto the beach, and we dip our toes in the water, which is very cold, as I expected. Back up to the walkway, and Dora says we should walk along the waterfront to some tall buildings, which aren't far away, and there's a Metro stop. I think it's more than a mile away, maybe 1.5 miles. We start walking, and there's lots of activity to watch, on the beach and above it on the promenade. But indeed it's 1.5 miles or more, and we walk and walk.
At one point, a couple of gorgeous women in skimpy black bikinis come walking the other way; we figure they're publicity for something, since it's too cool to be wearing those bikinis, but I don't see what business they might be advertising. Maybe people are supposed to follow them to some club ? We also see lots of skateboarders, and some bicyclers doing stunts in a half-pipe. On the beach, people playing volleyball or climbing things. There seems to be a bar/cafe/restaurant about every 300 meters, one down on the beach and one up above the promenade.
Eventually we get to a nice outdoor restaurant/shop area at Port Olympic, then to a casino and resort complex. Pics. Into a cafe with a disco upstairs, and the music is earsplitting. Dora has coffee and I have an ice-cream cone, and we sit outside where it is quiet.
Eventually to the Metro, and home by 10:45. Then we hear fireworks nearby, probably from Virrei Amat, but by the time we make up our minds and go outside and head that way, we get about a block from the apartment and the fireworks have stopped. Back home. Fifteen minutes later, more fireworks booming for a minute, then stopped again.
Put up a shower curtain in the bathroom, but the bar is a friction-fit and I'm not sure it's going to stay up.
Looked up some tutorials about her smart-phone (there's a problem with the SD card), and found this interesting tidbit: "With the innovative Smart Stay feature, GALAXY S III automatically recognises when you are looking at the phone, whether it is to read an e-book or browse the web. The front camera looks deep into your eyes and maintains a bright display for continued viewing pleasure. What a bright idea."
Took the 19-inch LCD TV off the wall in Dora's room and opened it up. TV has audio, but no picture. Opened up the case, and of course they make the cables so short that you can't open it all the way without disconnecting things. Appliance pics. But I confirmed there's no DVD stuck in the player. Put it back together and back up on the wall; still no picture. Watched some YouTube videos about "lcd tv no picture", and it seems this is a typical "LCD backlight failure"; could be the inverter board, or one of two inverter boards, or the backlight bulb ? Since it's a fairly cheap, small LCD TV, I'm sure it's not worth trying to fix.
Nice dinner with Dora around 5:30: pasta with sausage and cucumber/tomato sauce, and salad.
Took mini-SD card out of Dora's mobile, put it into my MP3 player, attached through USB to Dora's laptop, tried to copy pictures and videos off it. But it has filesystem damage, so started a repair. (Later, repair seemed to succeed, copied some files off the card, but then copying other files failed.)
Out with Dora at 9:30. Into Metro, bought new T10 card, 12 stops to Placa Sants. To her friend's place to return a couple of books. Then to park next to Estacio Sants. Into McDonald's for ice creams. Metro home. Into apartment at midnight.
Loafed this morning. Tried to disassemble the iron further; no luck. Worked on bad SD card from mobile; partial success. Worked on damaged videocamera; got some pics and video out of it.
Dora came home, and we had pasta and potatoes etc for dinner.
I'm developing a cough to go with my sore throat.
Sorted out Dora's schedule and when we can go to Tarragona and Girona. Bought tickets online for some kind of flamenco/magic/martialarts thing next week: here. €30 for two tickets.
Out at 7:30 with Dora. Onto the bus and to La Maquinista mall again. Browsed in Media Markt, a huge appliance-and-electronics place. Statue in the exitway: pic. Deli with lots of meat hanging up, a thing called "Jamon serrano": pic.
Then into Carrefour for the serious shopping. A new iron for a bargain €10. Two mattress pads for somewhat pricey €30 total, and they were on a "second one is half-price" special. Lightbulbs fairly cheap, but the usual bewildering assortment; buying a lightbulb used to be simple.
I'd wondered how the shopping carts were taken up and down the escalators; they seemed to have an automatic locking mechanism. Today I figured it out: the wheels aren't solid, they're like two disks, and the surfaces of the escalators are slotted. So when you take a cart onto the escalator, the wheels sink into the slots and a fixed part near the wheel rests on the surface of the escalator. Pretty ingenious. I took a picture of our cart as we went down the escalator, but managed to get only the front wheels into the slots properly, and you can't see them: pic.
Then Dora starts grabbing lots of €1 food bargains and some impulse buys, which is fine until we get to the checkout line. I pitch in €15 as my share, but it turns out she has only €50 in her pocket, and I have to add another €1, leaving me with €5 plus change. But we get everything without having to dump out any items.
Longish wait for the bus back, and one item Dora bought is ice cream. Back to the apartment by 10:15 or so.
Skype-called Mom and chatted with her.
Dora was home early from work. She insisted I take a Paracetamol, then gave me a head-massage with skin-lotion and then sun-block. Nice.
At 3:45, off with Dora. Stopped at ATM to get cash. Into Metro, out at Clot, onto train to Badalona. Arrived around 4:15. Wandered through town; various street views now and later: pics. Stopped for coffee in the Gondola restaurant/bar/cafe: pics. Eventually to the city museum. €6 each for admission. Nice Roman ruins, but same as we saw in MUHBA in Barcelona. Pics. Upstairs, a small exhibit of Roman erotica (they had all the vices we have today, but in lower resolution).
Over to the cemetery, which was closed. Into the park for a while. Then back into the center to a free art exhibit under Placa de Vila, which turned out to be great. Pics. Two of the painters, guys in their 60's, were there, and Dora talked to them at length.
I'm feeling headachey and a little feverish, and tired.
Picked up durum kebabs and a soda, and to the beach to eat. That perked me up a bit. Then laid on the beach for a while, and it was colder than Dora expected. Every time I shifted position, I had a small coughing fit. And now Dora is realizing I have a fever.
Onto the train and to the Metro and home by 10:30.
Dora gave me some Nolotil / metamizol magnesico (says on the package, give intramuscularly or intravenously, but she says they give it orally all the time). I'm leery of all the medicines she keeps pressing on me, vitamins and immune boosters and all kinds of things. She's a doctor, but I don't like to take a lot of medicine. And she believes in things I'm sure are nonsense, such as homeopathy and Nostradamus and Feng Shui.
Temperature 37.7C (99.86F). Dora got out a stethoscope and says sounds like some bronchitis. She says I need to take an antibiotic, so she started me on Augmentine Plus 1000 (amoxicillin trihydrate / clavulanate potassium), twice a day. She says my throat looks infected, too.
And the pills are followed by more. Change to clean shirt etc because my clothes are "full of viruses". I have to wear funny slippers to keep my feet warm. Pic. Gargle with hot salt water. Drink hot tea with honey. Lotion with menthol or something in it. In bed, I have to wear warm socks and even a wooly hat to keep my body hot (the hat is off after a minute or so).
Finally I get to sleep. Awake in the early AM, with headache, still coughing. Fever is gone; temp down to 36.5C (97.7F; a bit too low ?). Take a paracetamol for the headache, and Dora gives me cough syrup and an inhaler with broncho-dilator for the coughing. Water, and more hot tea. Back to sleep.
Dora's home unexpectedly at 11:30 from her 24-hour shift, has to go back at 3. She wants me to take more Nolotil for fever or paracetamol for pain, but I don't think I have fever any more, or much pain. She listens to my lungs, and I do take a couple of shots from the inhaler.
Feeling pretty good by 5 or so. Still coughing a fair amount.
Around 7:30, out for a walk for an hour or so.
Took another Augmentine Plus 1000 at 10 PM.
Awake at 3 AM, took a Paracetamol. Temp 36.5C. Email from Dora, sounds like she's caught some of my cold.
Expected Dora home early this morning, but she didn't arrive until 10:25. She's feeling fine (but apparently Bryan is getting what I have), and says I'm feeling bad because I didn't take all of the medicines she wanted me to take. So I surrender, and take four medicines in quick succession: Nolotil, Parcetamol, something to prevent gastirc upset from the other pills, Imunoglukan P4H to boost the immune system. And in addition to the Augmentine antibiotic, she wants me to take another antibiotic, Aratro (Azithromycin) 500 mg, once a day.
Dora has bought vegetables and fruit, and she doesn't do things in halves: I think she's bought 3 kilos of tomatoes, 2 each of mushrooms and bananas. Pic. She's going to make gazpacho with the tomatoes.
Feeling a bit better after all the medicine, a nap, and a shower.
Paella with meat and salad for dinner with Dora. Took an Aratro, too.
Dora went out to a pharmacy (they have them every couple of blocks, here) and came back with more medicine: two more types of inhaler, and something else.
Out with Dora at 7:45. Waited while she did some legal stuff with the parking agent office. Sat for a while in Placa Virrei Amat. Into BonPreu for groceries. Home at 9:15.
Still some bad coughing during the night. More inhaler and lotions and stuff.
Another Nolotil, and pills, and inhaler this morning.
I gave Dora €30 for all of the medicines she's been giving me, and the inhalers she's been buying, etc. She didn't want to take it.
Crisis: big flying-type bug in Bryan's room. I had to grab it with a towel and throw it over the balcony.
At 10:30, getting dark outside, and a huge clap of thunder. Soon raining pretty hard.
By 11, Dora is telling me to get ready to go out. I'm soon ready, but we're not out the door until noon. We're heading for Tibidabo, but first she has to stop at a farmacia, then the post office. I hit the ATM while she's in the post office. It's 1 by the time she's out.
We walk down to Virrei Amat to see what is happening; yesterday I saw a banner saying there was a party here from 12 to 2 today. But all we see is some kid's inflatable play-house being set up. Into the Metro. I buy a new T10 card. Up to Vall d'Hebron, wait for a 73 bus, off at Av. Tibidabo, wait for a 196 bus. Saw the Tram Blau but didn't take it: Pic.
To the base of the funicular by 2:10 or so. Extremely confusing ticket options; everyone is having long discussions with the ticket-sellers, and earlier I couldn't make heads or tails of the web site for this place. We buy round-trip funicular tickets for &euro7.70 each. Finally up to the Tibidabo park by 2:30 or so.
Great views from the main level: Pics. And some fun-looking kiddie-rides: Pics.
And it turns out we were smart not to get the "Skywalk" package for another €10 or so apiece. There's plenty to see just walking around the "free" areas on the main level. Pics. But we screwed up by not eating before we left, or bringing our own food. €10 apiece for meals that were filling but plain: pics.
Wandered a bit down some walkways and then up the spine of the hill and back into the center of the action. Pics.
Then into the church, which turns out to be a lot better than I expected. Pics. Dora anoints me with holy water on the places I'd make the sign of the Cross; she's very Catholic.
We take a lift (€2 each) up to the 500-meter (above sea level) mark of the church. Terrific views. Pics. Then Dora wants to climb stairs higher. I follow her up the first set of steps, maybe another 30 meters of altitude, but balk at the next set of steps. I'm not fond of heights, and I've reached my limit. I wait while she goes up and looks around.
Some pictures Dora took of me: pics.
Eventually back down, and we wait for the funicular down, and a longish wait for the 196 bus and then the 73 bus. Into the Metro, out at Virrei Amat around 7, and over to the mercado for Nit de Tapes, the Night of Tapas.
For €7, I buy 5 tickets, and we wander around and share 5 different tapas dishes. The first two are sausage platters, nice but not spicy enough for my taste. The next is a variety of breaded and fried cheeses, nice. A vegetable paella dish which isn't as good as Dora's paella. Then a chicken shish-kabob which I think is good (nice and juicy) but Dora says is tasteless. The food is okay, but the place is very crowded, getting into gridlock in places. We head outside and towards home. Outside are more tables selling food, but we've eaten our fill and used up our tickets.
Back home by 7:45. Tired.
Soon Dora is hitting me with medicine. Inhaler, Nolotil, Immunoglukan, Aratro. Then I took a hit of my usual semi-weekly vitamins: lutein, vitamin C, multi-vitamin.
Out at 12:45. Into Metro, connect, out at Sant Antoni station to go to the Sant Antoni market. There's the big market building I'm looking for, but it is under reconstruction. The market now is outdoors, on a street. Pics. Turns out to be all books and DVDs; I thought lots of books, but other things, too. And none of it is in English. I do a circuit through it, then go wandering.
Up d'Urgell, down Gran Via to the University. Sit in the plaza for a little while. Wanted to go into the University gardens and art museum, but it looks like the whole building is closed today. Wandered up to Consell de Cent, found a nice plaza, started getting rained on. Various views along the way: pics. Over and down to Placa Catalunya, started raining more, and I thought "I've never been into the Corte Ingles dept store here, I'll go in there". Closed on Sundays. Lots of people sheltering under its eaves.
Down Portal de l'Angel, and zig-zagged a bit, investigating whatever side-streets looked interesting. More views along the way: pics. Through some kind of "arts zebra" thing, just a made-up event to let shops put tables out and draw customers. Wandered more side-streets, came out onto La Rambla, and down to the Museu Maritim, which is free this afternoon. Sat outside for a while, then went in and wandered through it, but I was here a couple of weeks ago. Came outside, sat a little, then realized the wooden submarine is missing ! They must have moved it.
Wandered down to the Christopher Colombus statue, and found the gift shop underneath it. You can indeed go up in an elevator, about €4, and it's not running today.
Over to the waterfront, tempted to buy tickets for a sailboat ride tomorrow for Dora and me, but they're €16.50 apiece, a bit steep.
Sat at the base of a statue for a while and people-watched and listened to my MP3's.
They run tours here on all kinds of vehicles, such as: pics.
Eventually into the Drassanes Metro, had to stand all the way home. Back to apartment a little after 6.
Apparently the new guest has arrived, but is out now. Noel from Ireland ?
Around 7, went into the kitchen to cook some spaghetti, found Dora's son about to do the same, so I said let's share. Mistake. I had some nice sausages I wanted to put in it, but couldn't communicate that, and I think he doesn't like anything fancy, certainly nothing spicy. He said he'd take care of the cooking. I came back to find he'd cooked the entire 1-kilo package of spaghetti, dumped in a small bottle of some tomato-ish sauce, and that was it. Huge heaping bowl of spaghetti for each of us, and another couple of pounds left in the pot for his midnight meal and maybe tomorrow. He cooks rice the same way: cook an enormous quantity and leave lots of it sitting around for the next day or so. And the kitchen is always a mess after he cooks; often he just drops empty packages and scissors and such wherever they are when he finishes with them, gunk all over the stove, etc.
At 9, went out for a stroll around the neighborhood.
Fairly bad headache all night; couldn't get rid of it.
Met Noel from Ireland just long enough to say hi and shake hands.
At 7, Dora went to 4 pharmacies looking for some patch for my migraines, but couldn't get it and instead came back with rizitriptan.
Took the medicine, but it didn't seem to help much. A long nap, and then Dora reheated potatoes-chicken and cooked a little sausage and bacon for me, and the headache is almost completely gone.
Around 9, took a Tonopan. Later, a Paracetamol. Still feel like crap. Spent the morning in bed.
But the good news is I think my bronchitis is gone.
Out around 1:30, and ran into Dora coming home from work. I went to BonPreu and bought a toilet-plunger, then tried a couple of ferreterias to look for some lightbulbs for the bathroom, but both stores I found were closed. Sat in Placa Virrei Amat and listened to MP3s and dozed. My head still aches fairly badly.
Home before 2:30. Dora has two new medicines for me to try. The first is lidocaine patches; isn't this stuff used for skin surgery ? Anyway, soon I have patches on the back of my neck, side of my neck, and on the forehead where the worst of the pain is located.
After 45 minutes, the patches don't seem to be working. So Dora peels the one off my forehead, leaving the other two. And brings out another new medicine, a migraine medicine called zolmitriptan, applied nasally. I snort it and lie down. After 10 minutes or so, I don't think it's doing much.
Soon Dora calls me to dinner. She started broiling a big pan of chicken and potatoes, then realized that would take too long. So she's made rice and sausage and bacon and tomatoes for me, and makes "Cuban rice" (rice, egg, banana) for herself, while the chicken-potato continues to broil. Pics.
After the meal, I'm feeling pretty good. Only a slight tension-ache left on the right side of my face. We'll see how long this lasts. And was it the lidocaine, the zolmitriptan, or the food ? Time for a nice long nap.
Out at 7:30 or so. To a ferreteria to look for odd-sized lightbulbs for the bathroom, but they spoke little English, so it was a slow process to find out they didn't have what I needed. Into Placa Virrei Amat to sit and listen to MP3s and read a book while I people-watched for more than an hour.
Started heading home, and ran into Dora, and we wandered for a while, and did an errand. Home by 9:15.
At 10:30 or so, some chicken-and-potato and then ice-cream-and-Bailey's, with Dora. And she's cooking mushrooms to put mushroom sauce in the freezer, and cleaning tomatoes so she can make gazpacho tomorrow.
A bit of a nice late-night chat with Noel, who works as a financial advisor on pension matters.
Dora home unexpectedly at noon, as I'm about to leave. She hasn't had anything to eat for breakfast, so as I leave, she's eating ice-cream and some of my chocolate cereal.
To Metro, connect, out at Alfons X stop. And I recognize the place; I've been here before. But I turn a different direction before and explore some side-streets in Gracia.
A warmer day than most here; I'm wearing a T-shirt instead my normal shirt-and-sweater. And I'm not finding anything too interesting on the streets. I sit in a couple of nice plazas. In one, a lot of student-age tourists from Germany or Scandinavia are clowning around, and when a pigeon poops on one girl's foot, another girl laughs for about five minutes.
Eventually I wander over to the Fontana Metro stop, and find the English-language used-book store I went to before. I buy a nice crime novel for €1.75.
More wandering and sitting, listening to MP3's and reading my book a little. Various things seen today: pics. Eventually I wander to Sagrada Familia and sit there for a while. I wander around the side-streets there a bit.
Into the Metro, back to apartment by 4:45.
Headache again by 6:30 or so. Took a zolmitriptan. And my headache was gone in half an hour or so.
Around 11:30, I'm finishing up a big breakfast/lunch and getting ready to go out, when Dora gets home. I know she has to go to some hospital for a meeting at 2 PM, so I'm surprised when she says she wants to go out with me before then.
So at about 12:15, we're out. I'm confused about where we're going and why, we're trying to decide on the fly, eventually it sounds like we're taking L1 to Catalunya and then getting some ice cream. Down to F-i-P Metro stop, to Catalunya.
Then Dora is weaving in and out of the crowds down La Rambla, stopping unpredictably to point to things in shops, down a side-street to show me where there's a flamenco theatre, and then a plaza I have't been to. I'm confused; where are we going ?
And along the way, she's getting messages from work (message tone), and now they want her to start at 10 tonight instead of 11. We're going to a show tonight which starts at 9, so this is a problem. But she doesn't dare turn down any hours at work.
Finally back across La Rambla to a kebab place, and it turns out Dora needs lunch, not ice cream. She hasn't eaten. But I just had a big lunch. But I'm willing to go in. She heads elsewhere.
So we end up in McDonald's, of all places, and she has "food" and ice cream, and I have just ice cream. A couple of pictures she took, of me happy because I'm holding the ice creams for both of us: pics.
She seems in no hurry to get to her 2 PM meeting; it's 1:50 before we're out of there, and I think her meeting is 30 minutes away at least. She goes into Liceu Metro station, and I head off to wander.
I wander in Barri Gotic, and get so turned around that I end up back up at the McDonald's again later. But I'm happy to just wander. Pics. Eventually I get to the cathedral, and sit in a couple of places near there for a while, and sit again later in the courtyard of Museu Frederic Mares, a nice place I've been before.
Into Jaume I Metro and back home by 5.
Dora and I are going to some kind of theater tonight. Performance starts at 9, I think the instructions say pick up our bought-online tickets starting at 7:30, but Dora knows a manager there who is going to upgrade our seats. So I hope to leave at 7:45 and get there at 8:15, but can't get Dora out the door until 8. Last touch of dressing she does is to pull up the curl of hair on her forehead and snip off half an inch !
I'm wearing a Peruvian leather jacket that Dora lent to me, and then gave to me for my birthday, and it's warm. And of course today is the warmest day of my vacation so far.
Off to the Virrei Amat Metro, and there's some kind of protest march coming right down the street on Doctor Molist; Dora guesses it's related to government cutting payments to some workers.
Into the Metro station, and Dora doesn't have a card, so I give her my T10 with 6 rides left, and buy a new T10 for myself (€10). As we get on, Dora discovers she's left her mobile phone at home. Worse, she's forgotten to bring the address she has to go to tonight to start her work-shift. She's meeting some new customer for the hospital and can't miss it.
So when we get out at Catalunya station, instead of going right to the theater, we start searching for an internet cafe where she can call her son to get the work-address. Fortunately I have his mobile number written down. We cover a couple of blocks, but no internet cafe. Then Dora sees a phone booth. €2 from me, phone number from me, paper and pen from me, and soon she's talking to her son and writing down the info she needs.
To the theater, and to my surprise there's no problem picking up the tickets, and we're in the lobby by 8:50 for the 9:00 performance. Pic. We see her friend, and wait to be upgraded, and he shows us in at 9. The theater is less than 2/3 full, and we end up in row 4, when I think our tickets were for row 7. There are empty seats next to us, and in adjacent rows. Show starts at 9:05.
Dora borrows €20 from me in case she needs to take a taxi tonight.
The show ("Los Vivancos - Aeternum") turns out to be seven beefcakey guys doing flamenco dancing, with lots of loud music and stage-smoke and colored lighting and costumes and dramatic posing. I'm not too impressed.
I've been giving time-checks to Dora, and at 9:45 she slips out to go to work.
Soon after that, the show gets better. Some solo acts with far less background music and some solo instruments, and now you can see how talented (dancing and musically) and athletic these guys are. Then some martial-arts stuff, and some blindfolded dancing and stuff, and so on. A big finale, lots of painful strobe lights at one point. Much of the audience goes wild at the end, but I just slide out as soon as it's over.
Out of the theater at 10:40. Earlier I had been thinking of wandering down La Rambla after the show. But I'm warm and tired, and aware that I'm carrying my passport (needed to pick up the tickets tonight), and the Metro stops running at midnight. I glance at Placa Catalunya and don't see anything interesting going on. Into the Metro, L1 to F-i-P, stop at an ATM on the way home, into apartment by 11:20.
Dora back at 7:15. Turns out she worked all night staffing an ambulance at a concert. But there was little to do, only a few patients with minor problems. She arrived just barely in time last night after leaving the theater.
Up at 8:15. We planned to go to Tarragona today, and I'm going to go, with pills to control the headache.
Out the door at 9:30. But it turns out Dora has to do a couple of errands. To a store run by a friend. Then to a bank, to file some paperwork.
To the Metro after 10, and we have to stand all the way to Sants station, not a good start. I'm carrying a heavy bag Dora brought, heavy because she may go straight from the train to work at the end of the day.
Into the station around 10:30, I ask Dora, and she has no money, so I pay €30 for two round-trip train tickets. Then I find she literally has about €1 on her, so I lend her €10 for emergencies. Turns out the only way she made it to work on time last night was by taking a taxi, so the €20 I lent her is gone. Now she owes me €45.
Onto the train at 11:03, amid a mad scramble for seats. Miraculously, Dora and I each separately grab two seats, so she comes and sits with me.
Long all-stops train right down the coast, nice views of beach and Mediterranean. At one point the train gets going pretty fast for a while, maybe over 100 KPH, but it shudders quite a bit.
Arrive at Tarragona at 12:15, and 2/3 of the people get off the train. Probably the other 1/3 are going to the next stop, the Port Aventura amusement park, which Dora has been lobbying me to take her to.
Takes us a while to get organized at the station, bathroom break, grab maps, no Info desk here, no printed schedule for the return trains. Then we walk N along the waterfront. Uphill, and it's a hot, cloudless day. To the Roman ampitheater, a few quick pictures, and up a lift and into shade in a park. There's a fountain and pool, too, so Dora drenches her hair and face and shoulders and arms, and drips some water down the back of my neck. Pics.
Up and into town, along the Rambla Vella, mostly looking for a cafe to get some food and get out of the heat. We're both dragging from the heat, and I still have a bit of a headache.
We find a kebab place with a nice upstairs dining room, not air-conditioned but fairly cool, with a nice view of a busy cross and down a sloping street. We have nice felafel plates with rice and veggies and some dolmades and cheese, and a couple of Coke Zero's. Pic. We're revived, but at the end Dora doesn't want to move. It's an effort to get going. I paid the €14 bill. In Spain, the best bargain eating is in kebab shops and other non-Spanish places.
Into the plaza behind the kebab place, and it's pretty, but all of the benches are out in the sun, so no one is sitting on them. Through and up a hill, down a side-street, and out at the Archaeological Museum. Into it, €2.40 admission each, and the place is quiet and a bit disappointing. Lots of broken Roman wall and statue pieces, lots of oil vessels and lamps, some nice mosaics, some other interesting stuff. But Dora's mobile is beeping about every 3 minutes with interruptions from various people. I notice that on the lowest floor are lots of headless statues, and on the top floor are lots of statueless heads. Nice view out the window of ships and a megayacht anchored outside the port; I guess it's a pretty active port. Pics.
Out, down some streets, and there's the Modern Art Museum. Which turns out to be free, so Dora pays for that one (our joke). Turns out to be a moderately nice place, some unimpressive paintings but then a nice Miro tapestry, some nice sculpture and other items. But Dora's phone still is occupying her. Pics. Nice picture she took of me: pic. We sprawl for a while on comfy sofas in the middle of the upstairs floor, and put on more sunscreen. It's an effort to get moving again.
Out, up to a plaza, then over to the cathedral. Which looks nice but seems to be locked up. There's a museum around the other side, but I'm not interested.
Now Dora wants to head all the way across town to the Necropolis, which I think is a big old Roman graveyard. Then head back across town to the beach, spend a couple of hours there, then to the train. I'm not sure I'm up for another 4 hours of this, and she seems to be trying to time our arrival back in Barcelona at the time she has to go to work tonight (another concert), so as to save Metro travel. Doesn't seem likely to work, to me. And two stops ago she was complaining that her feet hurt from walking in flat shoes.
We start across town, find we're going completely the wrong way, get re-oriented. I talk Dora out of going to the Necropolis, we start heading for the beach, and duck into a nice coffee shop to get refreshed. Various sights along the way from Cathedral to coffee shop: Pics.
Then down to the waterfront, stumbling across a big market building with great murals along the way: pics.
We find the beach access (not on the map, and the whole town has only TWO places where you can get across the train lines to the beach !). Under the lines, up along the waterfront past port buildings, to the end of the beach. We're wilting in the heat, and when we get there we find there's absolutely NO shade on the beach, anywhere, and nowhere for Dora to change into her suit. She wants to wait for the sun to go down and provide shade, but that's going to take a couple of hours. We're hovering under the corner of the awning of the only drinks stand up on the walkway on the bluff, but I'm still getting a lot of sun. Neither of us has a hat. Pics.
Finally I go down to the beach and roll up my pants and walk along the edge of the water for a minute or two. Some nice-looking topless women, and plenty of nice-looking women in bikinis. Plenty of people getting broiled here. The water isn't as cold as up in Barcelona a month ago; I could swim in this water. But I've had enough sun, I go back up to the walkway on the bluff, and Dora goes down to douse herself a bit under the showers to cool off. Then we walk back down, under the train lines, and up to the train station. There, we go into the lavatories to drench our heads and faces and dry off with a towel Dora's brought (in her 20-pound bag I've been lugging all day).
We got back here at 5:40, next train that our tickets work on is at 6:30, delayed until 6:36. But it's pleasant to wait in the cool station, sitting on decent seats, people-watching and listening to MP3's.
Finally the train comes, and there's a mad scramble for seats. I have to shove past an old lady dithering in the aisle over a seat she's found, to get to two seats together before people coming from the other end grab them. I'm successful, we have seats !
On the ride back, some older lady at the end of the car is crying loudly as she speaks loudly into her cell-phone, and a little later Dora tells me that someone stole the lady's purse, with her ID documents and money in it.
Back to Sants station around 7:35, into Metro, home at 8:10.
Dora heats up spaghetti-and-mushroomsauce cooked earlier by her son, I think, adds some mushroom chunks I just cut up, and we have a quick but good dinner. I do lots of dishes as she dashes out the door around 9, to go to work at tonight's concert.
I feel a bit tired, but pretty good. A couple of shots of Paracetamol controlled the headache today. We could have seen more in Tarragona, but did pretty well, considering.
Dora arrived around 7:45, and had to work fairly hard during the night, staffing an ambulance at a big concert. She mentioned one patient, some guy who jumped out of or onto a tree and got a tree-branch embedded under half the length of his thigh.
Then at 8 she's moaning that she's tired but she has to be at the other apartment (2 blocks away) at 8 to meet the renters there and her friend's partner; they owe her a lot of money and there's some dispute, which is what some of the phone-traffic yesterday was about. I have to poke and prod her to get her out the door a little after 8. She's back at 9 to sleep for a couple of hours.
Moved pictures off Dora's mobile to my laptop. Moved curtains around for Dora; I don't know why we're doing this today, with renters coming and going this weekend, lots of stuff to do. Fixed a towel-hanger in the bathroom that kept falling off.
At 1:45 or so, out with Dora to BonPreu for groceries; we're getting low. And I'm the only one with money. We spend €38, of which Dora owes me 5, so the total she owes me now is 50. Back to the apartment to stash everything, then back out for meat. We go to a halal butcher, then a fruit/veg shop, and my last €10 in bills vanishes, with another €10 or so from Dora. I have about €3 in coins in my pocket. But we're stocked with food for the week at least, and my brother and I will share in it.
Nice dinner with Dora: turkey andlentils and rice and tomato-oregano slices and orange-chocolate slices. Pics.
Walked Dora through steps to reduce photo and video resolution on her mobile. Memory will last longer now.
Nap after dinner, and then I want to go out to MNAC, which is free this afternoon/tonight. Dora wants to go with me, but she keeps sleeping. Finally at 6:20 I say "I'm going", and she gets up to go with me, but her eyes are trying to close, and it will take her 45 minutes to get out the door. And she has lots of work to do, straightening out the rooms so people can sleep in them, washer running, etc. So I go without her, a little after 6:30.
On the way to the F-i-P Metro, I try an ATM, but no luck. Into the Metro, and I have to stand all the way to Espanya. Out and up the long trek to MNAC. Lots of people outside, but not so many inside. It's not nearly as much fun as the last time I was here, on the Nit de Museums. The big auditorium is empty except for some boring artsy video playing, and the upstairs galleries seem to be closed for some private event. I wander through one of the downstairs galleries, loaf for a while in the downstairs atrium, then when I try to see more, the place is closing. I guess it closes at 8; I thought 10.
I wander out, and sit at various spots around the upper grounds for a while, listening to MP3s and people-watching. A warm, humid evening. At 9, the big fountain down below starts running, and people swarm around there. I go down and sit nearby and watch. Some kids screaming with delight as a small puff of a breeze makes the mist from the fountains get them wet. Pics.
Eventually I wander down to Placa Espanya, then down Gran Via Catalunya. Head for one ATM, but a guy gets there ahead of me, tries it, says "no money". I go further down, and get €100 out of another ATM (I hate €50 notes). Into Rocafort Metro, surprised to find it quite crowded in my direction, but after a couple of stops I get a seat. Long ride and then walk home, feeling warm and sweaty. Home by 10:15.
Some idiot setting off loud firecrackers nearby around 10:45, and the noise really echoes among these concrete apartment buildings and courtyards.
A little before midnight, Dora says we need to eat. So we have some rice and egg and other stuff.
Up at 7:30, out a little after 8, to meet my brother at the airport. Running late: at the Metro platform at 8:13, and found the trains run less frequently in the early weekend mornings, had to wait 4:30 for a train. To Sants Estacio, through it and onto the airport train platform by 8:40, and my timing was good: lots of people waiting, and train came within 5 minutes. Had to hustle to get a seat.
To the airport by 8:58, through the overpass to terminal T2, but I need to go to the other terminal. Into shuttle bus, which is packed. To the other terminal, and got to the arrivals gateway at 9:23. Board says my brother's flight landed at 9:15; perfect. Lots of people waiting to meet people arriving.
My brother Chris appears at 9:53. We see each other right away, meet easily, head for the shuttle bus. I guide him through the shuttle bus, overpass, train ticket machine, and a train is right there; we get on with 2 minutes to spare. But we have to stand. And 5 minutes down the line, the train stops and idles for 5 minutes, for no apparent reason.
To Sants station, through it to L5 Metro by 10:40, longish ride to Virrei Amat. It's fun to be explaining things to my brother as if I'm some expert. But he's fairly tired from the trip, so I try not to overwhelm him.
Home around 11. I find my stuff has been moved out to the balcony so my brother can have my room; I joke about it with Dora, and tell her I'm grateful not to have been moved to the park across the street. Noel is packed to leave at 3 PM today. Dora's room still is a disaster area. My brother settles in and we relax as Dora starts to cook some rice and turkey for lunch. Chris delivers a birthday card and gift from sister Jane: pic.
Chris likes the front balcony of the apartment; nice and cool and quiet out there. I join him out there for a while: pic. But they're setting up pavilions and a stage in the park across the street (later, we figure it's for Father's Day). And 15 minutes later, music at high volume starts up. It stops for a while, then resumes.
Dinner: Chris, Bill, Dora, Bryan having turkey and rice, tomato-and-zucchini salad, fruit salad with chocolate for dessert. Pics. Then Chris heads off to sleep, Bryan to watch videos, and Dora and I do lots of cleanup. Then hang up laundry. Then crash for naps.
Dora and I went to the park across the street around 5:30. She wanted to dance a little, but when we arrived there was some kind of traditional serape dance, then it turned into a Mexican marache singer for several numbers, then a bunch of politicos got on stage for photo opportunity and short speeches. So we went back to the apartment. Lots of people in the park, but the sun was a little hot, and most people were hiding in the shade. Pic. Turns out the festival is run by an Ecuadorian foundation. Dora says there is a large population of Ecuadorians in Spain, especially in Madrid. Until a few years ago, people from many countries in South America could come to Spain without a visa, and they came and stayed.
Dora, Chris and I went out around 6. Down F-i-P to the Metro. On the Metro, we saw a 25ish woman getting sick, with a couple of friends trying to help her; first time I've seen that here. Through Metro to Catalunya. Then walked down La Rambla. Off to the side to look for a cafe. A couple we tried were full, or serving only dinners, but we found one and had drinks and tapas. A couple of sangrias for Chris, a beer for me, mango juice for Dora. Iberica ham, cheese-and-chorizo, and tomato-bread. Sitting outside, fairly quiet small plaza, quite nice. Some street-acrobats showed up to perform for tips, and then we had a wait before we could get the waiter to bring the check. We paid €30. Pics. And a picture Chris took of me, although I'm not sure he was aiming at me: pic.
Down La Rambla to the waterfront, where there was some outdoor dancing going on. Sat for a little while, but Chris is tired. Into Metro, connected, out at Virrei Amat. Back home a little after 10.
Skype-called Mom to chat a little.
Dora made food at 11: eggs and ham/salami and rice and mushrooms.
Out with Chris at 9:30 or so. Into Virrei Amar Metro, bought a new T10 card, out at Sagrada Familia. Huge line of people waiting to get into the cathedral: pic. Chris went into a souvenir shop and bought a FC Barcelona cap for €20 (!). Took a minute to get oriented, and had to walk halfway around it.
Found the Bus Turistic stop, tried to get onto the bus using the voucher I'd printed. They looked at it, looked up the web site it came from in their list of hundreds of sites/agents, and said "that site isn't on the list, are you sure you didn't buy for another bus company ?" Over to their stand nearby, and all was well. They gave us tickets and guides and earphones, and onto the bus. Scored front-row seats on the open upper deck.
Nice ride through the streets, great view from the upper deck, lots of fun. Eventually to Parc Guell, but disappointingly the stop was 4 or 5 long uphill blocks from the park entrance; I thought one benefit of this bus would be to avoid that walk. Chris was dragging by the time we got to the park, and there was more uphill inside the park.
After various stair-climbings and picture-takings (pics), we went to a bar at a mid-level and Chris had a huge bottle of iced tea, which revived him. Then we sat for a while and enjoyed the view and the scene. And a couple of spectacularly beautiful women walked by at various times; this city has many beautiful women, tourists and locals.
Climbed up further in the park, to see "arcades" and such. Then back down and out, through increasing throngs of tourists. Down, down, down to the bus stop.
Onto the bus, and through the Sarria and to the Camp Nou (football stadium) stop. Off and looking for lunch, and at first finding only office buildings. Then we found a nice bar/cafeteria, where not much English was spoken. They said no food until 1, and it was 12:50, but then they seated us. Sandwiches with big slabs of nice bread but a little light on the meat and cheese, a plate of olives, two Coke-lights for total of €14. Quite nice. Pic.
Back to the bus stop at 1:45, onto the bus, and lots of spectating as we went down Diagonal (banging into low-hanging banners), through Eixample (bus broke down at a stop, and we transferred to another bus), to Catalunya (where we sat for several long minutes in the hot sun), up Passeig de Gracia. Pics. I lost a tourist-bus map out the window while I was taking a picture, and Chris nearly lost his new cap (but it went down behind the last seat and we retrieved it). Out at Sagrada Familia, into the park to take a couple of pictures, then into the Metro. Out at Virrei Amat, to BonPreu to buy a few items, home a little after 3. Hot and tired.
Dora is home; I thought she was working until 4. I shower and nap and feel better. A little juice and food. We tried on some hats: Pics.
On the bus, I didn't listen to the audio commentary, but Chris did. Later he told me one snippet: it doesn't usually snow in Barcelona, but in December 1962 they had a big snow, and people were skiing down the streets, then taking the Metro back uphill to ski down again !
Out after 5 with Chris. Into Metro, out at Diagonal stop. Knew the street-name of the exit I wanted, and it wasn't on the signs. Guessed, and guessed wrong. Soon figured it out, and went over one block and down a little, and there was the bus stop. Waited about 5 minutes for the red-line tourist bus, and on.
Through some nondescript areas, and over to Sants station, and did some gyrations there, then to Hostafrancs and some gyrations there. Finally to Espanya, and the road straight up toward MNAC has traffic on it for the first time I've seen; usually it's blocked off. Up onto Montjuic past Pobles Espanyol, to side of MNAC.
Then over Montjuic, past the Olympic stadium and the Miro foundation and then the cable-car terminal. For some reason there are a lot of student-driver cars on the road right now; I've seen about a dozen of them in the last half-hour.
Down the seaward side of Montjuic, to the part of the container port. Some people sleeping on the benches outside the ferry terminal: pic. Over to the Columbus statue at the foot of La Rambla, then down the waterfront. Various street views: pics. Weather has suddenly become a couple of degrees cooler. U-turn, back to zoo area, and up Via Laetana. We get off at the Cathedral stop.
Wander in front of the cathedral, but Chris is tired and limping and not interested in sitting and watching all of the people around the cathedral. So we head for nearest Metro stop (Jaume I), looking for an outdoor cafe. No luck, and we turn up toward La Rambla. Into Placa Jaume, and there's an anti-govt protest taking place, but it's very civilized, and soon the protesters start rolling up their banners. Pic.
We walk further, look at a cafe, but it's only food, not drink. Then into an Irish pub, and we each have a Guinness (good, but about €6.50). Pic. And it turns out Chris wanted to eat here, too. I want to eat at home. I can't be spending €25 per day in bars and restaurants.
We head to La Rambla, into Liceu Metro stop, realize I've taken us into wrong side, back out and over. Metro to Diagonal, connect, and onto a packed L5 train (previous one we just missed was packed, too). Out at Virrei Amat, home at 8:45.
Around 10, Dora whips up a big dinner: pasta with mushroom sauce, gazpacho, vegetable plate. Pic. Pic. Plenty of people waiting, but they're not leaving, so I figure it's temporary. We wait about 10 minutes, service resumes. We get on, connect, out at Jaume I.
And something weird is going on here, too. Police have Via Laetana blocked off for half a dozen blocks, lots of flashing lights, traffic lights off, police directing traffic so tourists can cross. Pretty amazing; this is a major, heavy-traffic road. Pics. I'm guessing a protest march, and later Dora says the same, and expect more protests this week. Apparently a major worker's organization (CGT) has headquarters here, and the govt didn't pay full salaries last December, said it would make them up in June, and now is saying no. Something like that. And more cuts are coming.
Down Princessa, past the MEAM museum (I haven't been in it) and to the Picasso Museum. Into long line around 11:15. While we're waiting, 3 or 4 motorcycles come through the crowded, narrow lane, and I figure they're avoiding the closure of Via Laetana. A car comes through, too. Into the museum after 11:45. I use my Articket to get in, Chris pays €11.
Nice time in the museum, I maybe like it a little more the second time I've seen it. But no photograpahy allowed.
Out around 12:45, and Chris wants to find an outdoor cafe for a drink. We wander past the mammoth museum, Museu de Mamut: pic. We look, but all tables are full, and probably we'd have to order food anyway. We find Santa Caterina market (I've never been here), and Chris buys us natural fruit juices. Pics. He wants to find somewhere to eat, but I talk him out of it. Dora is cooking ribs at home, I spent €50 on groceries last weekend so I could eat at home, and I don't want to be eating in restaurants every day.
We wander over to the corner of the cathedral, down the nice lane along the side of it, and eventually to Jaume I Metro stop. Out at Virrei Amat, stop at grocery store, home around 1:45.
Dora is home and cooking ribs and potatoes, but she has to go back to work before they're done, and she's working an all-night shift. Chris and Bryan and I eat the ribs etc around 2:45, and they're quite nice.
Did laundry. Disassembled the kitchen sink drains and cleaned gunk out of them, but there's more gunk down in the trap, I'm sure. Took ceiling panel out of small bathroom to see if there's any obvious reason the air-conditioning is broken, but only one panel comes out, not much to see, and I have no flashlight.
Went to the Piferrer apartment, took in the bedspread that was on the line, brought back food and fan/air-conditioner to the Deia apartment. The Piferrer apartment is the one I actually reserved, not the Deia apartment I ended up in. And I would have been fairly unhappy in the Piferrer apartment; it's smaller, and the bedroom I would have had definitely is a 1-person, not 2-person. The apartment really is a 4-person, not 6-person. And the kitchen is tiny. Pics.
Out around 5:45 with Chris. Just down Piferrer to Heron City Center. Wandered through it, across to Cortes Ingles department store, then back to HCC. Sat at an open-air cafe. Chris had a pizza and a drink, I had a chocolate ice-cream cone (small "cucurucho") and a slice of Chris's pizza. Quite pleasant. Back to the apartment by 7:20.
Online, bought and printed tickets to Sagrada Familia for tomorrow. Ticketmaster form asked for Name, Middle Name, Last Name. And what I think of as my last name had to go in the Middle Name field, leaving Last Name field empty. Strange. Maybe it's a Spanish thing ?
We entered through the "Passion Facade": pics.
And the inside of the cathedral (basilica) is fabulous. Great columns and arches (modeled after Sequioa trees), terrific stained glass, lots to see. Pics. Chris at the bottom of this pic. Lots of empty places everywhere for statues in the future: pic.
Back out the way we came in, and while Chris checked out a gift shop, I found the museum/crypt. So we went into there, which turned out to be pretty great. Pics. The design went through three evolutions under Gaudi, from neo-gothic (pic; 1900-1913) to parabolic (pic; 1913-1915) to hyperbolic (pic; 1918-1926). Then he was hit by a tram and killed.
Surfaced on the other side of the cathedral, at the Nativity Facade: Pics. Model: pic.
Back in for a while, to the "Naturales" gallery (pic) and the inside. Then out and into a cloister, which had another gift-shop in it.
Eventually out to the street, and more pictures. They're still doing construction; we saw cranes moving loads around. Pics.
Up a side-street and found a Carrefour Express where Chris bought a drink. Wandered around the block, sat for a while. Pics.
Back into the Metro and had to stand all the way back. Lost Chris briefly at the Metro exit (which branches into 3 exits), but quickly found him.
Home a little before 1. Dora is home, but has to go out for 20 minutes. She started zucchini boiling, and gives me instructions to boil until soft, scoop out the meat, lines up the skins in the broiling pan, put bread in milk to soften, she's going to make a cream sauce of the zucchini meat and bread and then broil it in the skins. I followed instructions pretty well.
Dora was back late, and finished doing the dinner. Pics.
But I had a bad headache, from being tired and waiting to eat much later than I expected (we didn't eat until 3 or so). Took a Paracetamol before dinner, and Dora put some topical anaesthetic patches on my head (those never work), and I hoped the food would help. Took a long nap, but by 6 I still had a bad headache. Took a zolmitriptan and a Nolotil. That Nolotil always works, and by 7 or so I was feeling tolerable.
Out the door by 7:45 or so with Dora and Chris. Into Virrei Amat Metro, using the last of my T10 card. Connect, and out at Drassanes, at the lower end of La Rambla. Past the Christopher Columbus statue, across the harbor bridge, to MareMagnum shopping center. Nice views of some big ferries, and another one coming into harbor. Into the shopping center for a little while.
Then out and up La Rambla, and selected an outdoor cafe. Ordered 5 or 6 plates of tapas, sangrias for Chris and I, and a Coke Light for Dora. The food was fine, the drinks very nice, the ambience terrific. Chris really enjoyed it; exactly what he wanted from this vacation. And he treated us; very nice of him. Pics.
Moving again by 11:15 or so. Looked at a couple of shop windows, checked out Placa Reial, and then into Liceu Metro. Bought a new T10 card. Some kid with a bike hanging around outside the turnstiles went through right behind Chris, fare-jumping. Out at Virrei Amat, home at midnight.
Out with Chris at 10. Into Metro, out at Jaume I. Interesting candles in a shop window: pic. Looked for a coffee shop for Chris, found one. Up alongside the Cathedral and sat for a minute while he finished the coffee. Then into the Cathedral.
I've been in here before, so I wandered and mostly just took pictures of stained-glass windows. Read the guidebook and learned more about the cathedral. Out the other side into the cloister, and today a little section of the interior courtyard is open, and also there are geese. Pics.
Out and around to the front of the cathedral and sat for a while. Bike-tour group came and perched in front of us and the guide gave them a long religion-filled speech.
Across Via Laetana and past the Santa Caterina market, over to Parc de la Ciutadella, only getting slightly off-course once. Sat on the grass and enjoyed the scene for a few minutes. Then over to the fountain/mammoth/lake area, and sat there for a while. Pics.
Out the far corner of the park, up some fairly uninteresting streets, across a bridge, eventually to the Bogatella Metro station. Out at Virrei Amat, stopped at BonPreu, home by 1:35.
At some point, Chris said "gee, we've seen a lot of signs for that place Sortida, maybe we should go there sometime".
Dora appeared a little before 3, and started cooking paella with shrimp, mussels, clams. Boiled a fish-head for the broth. Pics.
Went out with Chris around 6:15 to just sit in Virrei Amat plaza and relax and people-watch.
Out with Chris and Dora before 9. Long Metro ride to Placa Sants and then Hostafrancs. Along the way, I think I saw a young woman passing out in one train, and we saw another who looked unconscious in a station. Both had friends with them.
Out at Hostafrancs and started looking for a cafe. Eventually found one close to Espanya, and Chris had a sangria, Dora a tonic water, I had a San Miguel beer. We had two plates of tapas: iberica ham, and choricitos fritos. Nice, except we were close to a busy street, and the two women near us were smoking. Still nice.
Down to Espanya, and up to the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. Which was a little less magic tonight, since they seemed to be having trouble with the audio. Still fun, and swarms of people. Pics.
Back to Espanya, into Metro, long ride home. Got home after 11:30.
Out, found the 150 bus, and it arrived in a few minutes. But I had misread the bus map, and instead of stopping at the side of MNAC, it went behind it. No problem, but then as I was saying we'll get off at the stadium stop, we zipped past it. I had thought someone had requested the stop, but I was wrong. So we ended up getting a tour of Montjuic, which wasn't too bad, but the end of the line is at the castle and the driver got out for a 10-minute break. Back down and we got off behind MNAC and walked down to it.
Into MNAC. I used my ArTicket; Chris used a 20% discount from the tourist bus and paid €9.60.
Started with a Moroccan photo temporary exhibit that wasn't very good. Upstairs to the top atrium, which is gorgeous, through Numismatics, and then into Modern Art. Quite nice. A few rests on the comfy sofas, into the auditorium to look around, then down to the ground floor. Into the cafe to revive ourselves with a couple of iced-teas. Did the Romanesque section, and ran out of steam. We covered about 70% of the place; it's just too big. But the tickets are good for any two days within one month.
Out and down the escalators and steps to street level. Over and into Caixa Forum for a bathroom break. To the Metro, long ride home, but we had seats most of the way. Into BonPreu for a few items, then home by 2:30.
Dora's making chicken-rice-cilantro and Peruvian potatoes for dinner. So I'm peeling potatoes, and doing dishes. Pics. After dinner, more dishes.
Dora said "something is wrong with my laptop, it won't turn on". I looked at it, and Windows 7 is saying something (in Catalan) like "installing update 37 of 122". Oy. And then later, "error in configuring Windows, reverting the changes". Double oy. But after a couple more reboots, it was okay.
Dora had to go out, so Chris and I had to postpone plans for going out for a drink. I went out to Placa Virrei Amat for a while, to loaf and listen to MP3s and people-watch. Chris didn't want to go out because lots of people are setting off big firecrackers and explosions, in the run-up to the St Joan festival.
Around 8:30, Dora came back, and around 9 she and I and Chris went out. She led us over to St Andreu neighborhood, but there weren't the cafes she remembered. So we ended up on the lower end of Fabra i Puig, in a hotdog-place cafe that was okay. Out in the middle, pedestrian-mall part of the street. Chris and I had big steins of Estrella beer, and Dora had a Coke-and-beer mix (another popular mix here is beer-and-lemonade). Her drink tasted mostly like slightly weak Coke, with an aftertaste of beer. Pic. Chris and Dora had hotdogs; I had a toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich. Caught the 36 bus back to near the apartment, getting back by 11:30.
Out at 11 or so with Dora. To the Piferrer apartment to shift some laundry. Then to the Metro. Over to Hospital Clinic, and Dora went up to a friend's apartment to visit her. She said maybe 15 minutes, I said it's okay to take a bit longer, and it turned out to be 70 minutes.
I walked around a few blocks (pic), then went into the big Mercat Del Ninot (meat, fish, fruit, etc market), which is the usual story here: nice old building closed for repairs, new temporary building in use: pics. Then sat on the benches where I said I'd meet Dora. Listened to MP3s. Wandered through the market a bit. Wandered around a nearby block. Back into the market and bought a pizza-like thing (but cold) and some cookies. Then Dora appeared.
Into the Metro. Stopped at BonPreu on the way home and bought more stuff than we could carry conveniently, despite my telling Dora not to. She went back to the Piferrer apartment, I went home, getting there by 2:30 or so. Put laundry out to dry and started a load of my own.
Nice, quiet dinner with Dora: ribs and cilantro-rice and Peruvian potatoes. Pic.
Into Girona. Nice train station, signs to Info desk, but no Info desk, no maps. We found a sign giving directions, set off, and with a few false steps made our way into town center. Dora found all kinds of bargains on shoes and such in the shop windows, but all of the shops are closed today. Bridge built by Eiffel, of Paris fame. Pics.
Found a Tourist Info center in a govt building, but it's closed, with a sign saying go to another center. Found that one and got maps etc.
Along the river and into the old town. Tried to find the History museum, which the map says is close to the river, but three people in a row pointed us uphill. So we climbed and climbed, and got to the cathedral, and then a lady said the History museum is down where we came from. As I guessed, we have arrived at the Art museum. No problem, we went in.
The art isn't too impressive (but a nice display of restorer's chemicals), but the facilities are great, a lift to let us avoid more stairs, chairs in a lot of places, and the nicest lounge I've seen in a museum, comfy leather sofa and a vending machine. Dora wants a Coke, so we put in €0.80 or so, pushed the button, and it seems like nothing happened. But I heard a clunk. So I reach down into the slot, and it seems jammed, there's some kind of flap that is sticking on something. Dora thinks we have to put in more money, but I start working at the slot/flap. Turns out it was jammed by a water bottle; previous person must have put in money and not taken their bottle. I pull that out, but slot still is jammed. I pull out another water bottle. Then our Coke. Now we're laughing: three for the price of one ! Pics.
Of course, now we have to carry two cold bottles everywhere while drinking the third. I keep setting them down to take pictures, or when my hands get too cold.
Out of the museum, and the cathedral door is open, so we go in. Big cathedral, a bit dark and gloomy but some nice stained-glass windows. Incense burning. A baptism taking place in one side-chapel. Some people up behind the main altar, and Dora is eager to get up there, but they're with a priest and it looks like a special deal, so she can't go. No picture-taking allowed. Pics.
Out and down the hillside, and we stumble across the History museum. Into it, and the first floor is mainly big machinery: printing presses, electric motors and generators (and a telephone mechanism invented by Alexander Graham Bell). Girona had electricity in 1875, which seems pretty early to me. I assume it was just in factories then.
The upper stories have some Roman stuff and a mish-mash of other historical things, geology, Napoleonic times, instruments from a famous band, a diorama of a battle, etc. Not too interesting. But again a lot of chairs to rest on. Pics.
Out, and we found a cafe for lunch. Even with Dora there to talk and translate, it's very confusing; "menu of day" sign draws you in and then things are different at the table. Turns out to be two cafes side-by-side, and we ended up in the other one. But it turns out the owner lady is Peruvian like Dora, so that's nice. The salad is okay, my chicken is good but Dora's beef is not, the tiramasu on the menu is unavailable, the Catalan cream dessert is good. We drink the Coke we got from the machine. And we get the €8 each price we expected instead of the €9 they asked for. Pics.
I thought we were going downhill to wander through old town, but Dora wants to climb back up to the cathedral museum. So we go up, and the museum turns out to be okay. Normally it's some outrageous fee such as €7, but today it's free. Into the cathedral again.
We have a long walk back to the train station, so I chivvy us along and we get going. Stop at a couple of tourist shops to browse. Pics.
It starts raining, but I've brought an umbrella. We make good time, don't get lost, and arrive half an hour early at the station for the 3:36 train. Use the bathrooms, clean up, and suddenly I have a headache, which gets worse. I take a pill, drink water, eat a powerbar. But I'm feeling bad.
We get onto the train, which stops short of where we expect, so we have to scramble for seats, and end up in different cars. When the conductor appears to check tickets, I realize I have to get one ticket to Dora. Fortunately it turns out there are empty seats, so I leave my seat and go to the next car and find her and sit with her.
Some people get off, then some dodgy-looking guys get on with two dogs and have some argument with the conductor. Later, a woman with another dog gets on. Dora doesn't like dogs.
I sit across the aisle and try to sleep, but my headache is bad. A guy sits near me, and soon I'm convinced he's watching me or my bags. The dogs several aisles away are acting up, those dodgy guys are laughing loudly, some kids are screaming and parents yelling at them. Later one of the dogs pees onto one guy's bag or something, which leads to more laughter.
Finally we're getting close to Barcelona. The guy watching me gets up and stands near a door as if to get out, but when it opens, he turns away and goes down to the other end of the car and into another car. Soon Dora comes over to my side of the aisle, and says she thought that guy was looking to steal my bag.
20 minutes later, we're arriving at Clot. Through station to Metro, out at F-i-P, and toward home. Dora goes off to do laundry at the Piferrer apartment, I go to Deia to collapse into bed.
Home around 5:30. Bryan has been lying on the sofa all day watching videos, as usual, and has left a huge pile of dirty pots in the kitchen sink, as usual. I drink some juice, plug in Dora's mobile to charge, and flop into bed. Lots of loud firecracker explosions everywhere outside; it sound like a war zone. But it doesn't really bother me.
By 7 or so, I'm still feeling bad. Up to take a Nolotil, then eat pasta-and-beef with Dora. While we're eating, Bryan is still sprawled on the sofa nearby watching loud videos and disagreeing with everything his mother tells him to do. Still lots of loud firecracker explosions everywhere outside. I can see a couple of guys and a kid across the street setting off explosion after explosion on the sidewalk; it seems repetitive and boring.
A little more nap, still feeling terrible, then Dora gives me a rizitriptan, a couple of other pills, rubs my head with some lotion, gives me a pressure-point massage. Try to sleep some more.
Finally by 11 or so my headache is gone. I'm feeling okay but tired and a bit wobbly from all of the drugs. Tonight is the Night of St Joan, and huge firecracker explosions have been going off all evening. Dora wanted to go to the beach to see the bonfires and partying, but my headache and the rainy weather have put a damper on that. Now she says maybe we could go at 2 AM, so I set an alarm for then.
But at 2 AM, it takes us about 5 seconds to decide we'd rather keep sleeping, so back to sleep.
Nice simple lunch with Dora, then straightening and cleaning the apartment.
For some reason, Windows 7 disabled the touchpad on my laptop. Hard to recover from that. Got it working again, but don't know why it happened in the first place.
Nice quiet dinner with Dora: pic.
Saw pictures on TV of the aftermath of the Night of St Joan celebrations: after dawn, a line of police walking down the beach and rousting out sleeping people, followed by a line of sanitation trucks picking up all the garbage.
Tried again to take down the ceiling in the small bathroom to get at the broken main air-conditioner. I took down one section of the ceiling a while ago. Now I have a flashlight. But after much looking and banging and prying up one end, it seems the builders put the entire rest of the ceiling together in one unit, with a 2x2 down the middle to hold all the slats together (and probably glued the edges of the slats together, for good measure). And there are lights and a fan through some of the slats. We're going to need a saw to cut each slat free, one at a time, watching out for wiring. Dora says, if that's what it takes to get at the busted air-conditioner, so be it.
Around midnight-thirty, Dora is eating eggs and rice, and I'm eating watermelon and banana with chocolate sauce, yum ! But then she's starting to cook a donut-like sweet she's been talking about for weeks now. I peel a big melon (calabash ?) for her, and she's peeling sweet potatoes. But then it's 1:15 AM, I'm going to bed !
Into the Jardi De La Tamarita, a pleasant garden: pics.
Wandered down Passeig St Gervasi and Passeig Bonanova. Some nice buildings and stuff, but nothing amazing. Nice tree-lined streets. Sit in a plaza for a while, reading my book and listening to MP3s. Into a church for a little while: pics.
Across Via Augusta and more of the same. Various pics along the way: pics.
Ducked into a supermarket and they had a special of four chocolate donuts for €1.50, so I bought a package and sat on a quiet side-street near Reina Elisenda Metro station and pigged out. Later, my stomach reproached me a bit.
Up to Parc Joan Reventos: pics.
Back across Via Augusta, down Carrer Angli and a parallel street. Stopped in Biblioteca Clara for a while. As in the Nou Barris library, the only English-language magazine is Time magazine.
Down to Via Augusta, to General Mitre. I don't quite understand the Metro lines in this area (they're run by a separate company), so I decide to take the H6 bus. Suddenly, there it is, and I'm not at the stop. I see the stop down a couple of blocks. Fortunately, the bus is stopped by a red light. I have the green, so run across to the other side, run down 2 blocks to the stop, and get there just ahead of the bus, which is stopping anyway to pick up 4 or 5 other people. Good timing !
Bit of a slow bus ride back, but it's going directly where I want. I get off as it turns from Albo onto Escocia. Walk back to Albo, which becomes Arnaud Oms, and soon I'm home. Back at 5:20 or so.
Dora got home at 1:30, and was wondering where I was. She cooked me a quick beef-hearts, rice and tomato slices dinner; very nice. And then she's finishing cooking the sweet (picarones) she started last night. I stir the glop as she adds flour and sugar and salt, and then we set it aside for an hour or more.
Out at 8:45 or so to BonPreu with Dora, for groceries and more ingredients for the picarones.
Around 10, Dora was frying the picarones in oil and serving them with a sweet sauce, made from sugar cane and other things. Tasty. Pics.
Pasta with pesto sauce for dinner.
I figured out what is making the seat of my pants damp: we laundered the chair cushions a couple of days ago, put them out to dry, and put them on the chairs. But they're still wet, inside. Dora laughed and laughed when I told her about my wet seat.
Spent some time with Dora on her laptop, unsubscribing her email from various sites, tightening Facebook privacy and notification settings, etc. Her Yahoo Mail inbox has 2550 messages in it. 900 in her Spam folder, hundreds each in a dozen other folders. Oick.
More picarones, yum.
Later, used Google Sites to create a web site for Dora, and showed her how to edit it. Dora's site. Look out, internet !
Also, set Dora's tablet to use smaller resultions for video and pictures, to try to keep the memory from filling up.
There's a Julio Iglesias concert here tonight. Dora wanted to go, but I was unwilling to pay €67 each for tickets. We had thought of going to sit outside the concert and listen, but now we decide to stay home.
I'm fairly "cheap"; I think hard before spending money. At some point when he was here, Chris said to me "you are your mother's son" (Mom grew up during the Great Depression). So now Dora delights in giggling "you are the son of your mother" any time I make a face about spending money.
Went for a brief late-night stroll around the neighborhood to stretch my legs. Noticed that gasoline here sells for about €1.45/liter, which is about $7/USgallon.
Out at 12:10 with Dora. Into Metro, bought a new T10 card, connect at Maragall, out at Passeig de Gracia to catch a train to Sitges. But the P-d-G station is a disaster: walked and walked, through a long passageway and across two platforms, and finally found a sign saying an exit was closed, we had to go up to street level and around a block or two, to a train ticket booth. Two round-trip tickets for about €17 total.
Down into the train platform, and our train came within 5 minutes. Some confusion as several trains came within a few minutes, but we got onto the right one. Nice new train cars, double-decker, and we get nice upper-level seats. But I think their outside-temperature gauge isn't working: pic (47C is about 117F).
Forty-minute ride to Sitges, arriving around 1:45, and a swarm of people getting off and crowding down the stairs and out. We turned the wrong direction, away from the beach, and ended up in the uninteresting upper town. Got €100 out of an ATM. Looked for a restaurant; Dora wants Chinese, but no luck here. Finally back down into the train station and across to the beach side, and prospects are much better. We get a map out of Tourist Info just before it closes for lunch.
Down some streets, often stopping so Dora can look at shoes or other things, and then we're out onto a nice main shopping pedestrian street. Slowly down that, looking for a restaurant. We get directions to a Chinese restaurant, and find it after a few false turns. It's a Chinese-Japanese-Vietnamese-whatever place, with a big buffet.
We spend a couple of hours over lunch, having the buffet and Cokes and then a coffee for Dora. pics. Total bill is €25 and change.
Out and down to the beach, which looks nice: pics. But the beach concession is expensive: if we want to rent an umbrella for €8.50, apparently we also have to rent two lounge chairs for another €6.50 each. We decide to punt, and go back up to a nice shaded stretch of lawn on the other side of the waterfront walkway, where we stretch a beach towel and lie down and loaf and doze. Nice people-watching here: lots of gay people, families, young people, etc. Pleasant shade and breeze and a little view of the beach and nice surf noise.
After an hour or so, we get up and go to the museum area. All of the museums and palace are closed. We need a bathroom, and I take us into a library, which turns out to be a very nice old building, with fine bathrooms. Hard to take pics of the building, but here's the central courtyard: pics. Good stop.
Back down to the waterfront area, and onto the beach. We add more sunscreen, strip down a bit, and put down the towel and lounge for a little while. But Dora wants to move up right to the water's edge, which we do, and now we're in a high-traffic area with little kids darting all around us. After 5 minutes, I move us back to where we were.
Soon, we move to a quieter bay, and I strip down to just my undies while Dora turns out to be wearing a swimsuit under her dress. I wade up to my knees, while she swims, and I keep looking to make sure no one steals our stuff. She wants me to swim, but the water is cold and I'm not wearing a swimsuit.
We lounge on the towel a little, and it's pleasant now that it's 7 PM or later, and the sun is down quite a bit. Eventually we pack up and go up to the foot-washing area and dress again.
Up to the main shopping streets, and we wander for a while. Various street pictures I've taken today: pics. We're sort of looking for a place to get a coffee, but eventually end up at the train station at 8:25 without finding a place. Our next train is at 8:59, so we go out again. Across the street and into the outdoor area of a small bar/restaurant.
Much confusion as we sit down and try to order and Dora has the guy take a couple of pictures of us together. And the guy keeps trying to put some pottery thing on the table and keeps dropping it. As Dora moves to get us closer for a second picture, a leg of her chair drops off the pavement into a basin for a tree, and chair and Dora topple over and knock over a standing sign for the restaurant. Much confusion, and Dora has banged her left elbow fairly hard, and banged her right wrist a bit. But mostly she's laughing at me for not jumping up and helping her; I was a bit confused, and she sort of fell on the other side of the table from me. She asks for ice and gets only a single largish ice-cube, which we hold on her elbow.
We have coffees and an order of tapas: goat-cheese croquettes for €3 which turns out to be exactly two smallish balls, which starts Dora laughing again. Pics. Many of the tapas I've had in Spain have been a rip-off. Had a couple of good ones in La Esquinica with Raul, some on La Rambla; other than that, disappointing or overpriced (€5 for €1 worth of Iberica ham, for example). In Spain, eat kebabs or Chinese, or eat at home, or eat out of bakeries.
Back to the train station, and a Barcelona-direction train comes at 8:54 with absolutely no signs saying what it is. Just about everyone crowds on. We wait for the 8:59, and nothing comes. At 9:03, a train for Barcelona Franca station comes, and we get on. Nice new cars, video-screens everywhere, and not a lick of information showing on any of them.
We decide to take it all the way to Franca instead of getting off at Passeig de Gracia. Dora has never seen the mammoth and fountain in Parc Ciutadella. After a longish wait in Sants station, we get out at Franca (end of the line). Into the park, which is dark but still has a fair number of people in it. We find the mammoth and take pictures (pics), to the fountain but it's dark and not running. Up to the Arc corner of the park, and get out about 10 seconds before the gate is locked for the night.
Walk up to the Arc de Triomf. People have laid out a couple of lines of very small cones on the ground and are roller-blading slowly through them like a slalom course. We watch the Agbar building (the suppository building) in the distance for a few minutes, but it never changes colors; Dora keeps telling me it changes colors so we should go see it.
Into the Arc Metro station, L1 line to F-i-P station, out. Home a little before 11.
Out again, to Corte Ingles. Into the supermarket, bought a couple of things, then upstairs to look for a rolling pin for Dora. Eventually found them, but for €17.50; too much. Home.
Online, bought tickets to a Michael Jackson tribute show tonight; Dora wants to go. €21 each.
Sat out in Virrei Amat plaza for a while, people-watching and listening to MP3s.
Dora home around 3. Had paella and chicken-potatoes and tomato slices for dinner. Put a load of laundry out to dry. Fixed a door-handle that came off.
Out at 8:15 with Dora. Into Metro, connect, out at Placa Catalunya. Up 2 blocks to the theater, arrive 5 minutes before showtime. Show starts 5 minutes late. I take a couple of pictures before the show starts, but no pictures allowed during the show. Pics.
Fun show. Some of the songs were quite good, many just average. Good dancing, decent band. They got the audience standing up and dancing a bit a few times, brought kids and a few adults up on stage a couple of times. Not a very good rendition of "Thriller". Many of the toughest singing parts were avoided. One segment with the Spanish guys in afros as they were the Jackson Five. [Dora seems to enjoy the show, but the next day she told me she was a little disappointed with it.]
Show over at 11:20. We wander out and down to a bench across from Placa Catalunya, and sit there for a while, loafing and watching people go by. Eventually into the Metro, and home by 12:30. Pics.
Into the Metro, long ride through Diagonal and then out to Maria Cristina. Out and down Diagonal, looking at fancy store-windows. Pics.
Eventually into L'illa mall, which is 3 or 4 floors, mix of indoor and outdoor, quite nice. I follow along as Dora looks at dresses, shoes, jewelry, etc.
Stop at a cafe for espressos and a sandwich. Noticed that the coffee-cup handles had no holes in them. Pics.
More wandering, then out and back up to the Metro. Long ride back home, arriving around 4:30.
My right knee is hurting a bit today. I've done a lot of walking here in the last two months.
Nice paella and lentils and cheese-croquets dinner with Dora. Then she's out a little after 5 to have her hair done.
My last evening here, and I can't think of much else I want to do. But I think I could go for one last walk on La Rambla, downtown.
But Dora is gone for hours and hours. And a friend of hers shows up around 7:30 and starts demolishing the ceiling in the small bathroom. I thought Dora decided not to do this. But I have to try five times before Bryan will tell this to the guy, and the guy says he talked to Dora today about it, so I guess she changed her mind. The guy gets tools and starts getting the ceiling apart.
I flee the scene, and go out to Virrei Amat plaza for a while. The booths and stage there are going full-blast, lots of people everywhere. A little too crowded and noisy, and mostly old people and young families. I wander down and up F-i-P a bit, but it also is too crowded for comfortable wandering. Back home by 8 or so.
Dora gets home after 8:30; turns out she had to wait a long time at the hairdresser's. The guy is finished with the ceiling, and now pulls a badly burned circuit-breaker out of the electrical panel: pic. Dora and I dash off to try to buy a replacement before 9 on a Saturday evening. Corte Ingles might have one, so we head for there.
On the way, I try to figure out what could have burned the breaker. It's fairly old; maybe it just wore out. Dora says no one held it closed when it popped open. She thinks the microwave, air-conditioner and one TV all died at the same time; I'm wondering if a lightning strike or some surge came through the lines. She doesn't think anyone else in the building lost appliances at the same time. Around then, she had the power company change the apartment's service from a higher capacity to a lower capacity; I'm not sure if that's just a rate change, or some physical change. But I remember she said the air-conditioner went first, and dumped a lot of water on the ceiling and floor. Then the electrical stuff happened a day or two later. Confusing.
No luck finding a breaker in Corte Ingles. On the way back, I tell Dora that the guy said he talked to her today about the ceiling, and she says no, they last talked 3 or 4 days ago, before she decided to not demolish the ceiling !
Back home by 9:30. And now we're not feeling like going downtown tonight. I have to get up at 4 AM or so to leave tomorrow.
I thought Dora said she wanted to rest, but after 5 or 10 minutes, she said she was finished resting. Then we ate a little. Then out the door at 10 or so.
Metro to Sagrada Familia, and wandered around the park and sat and talked for a while. Sad that I'm leaving. Pics.
Into the Metro and back to Virrei Amat; some horrible band playing on the stage, and the few people around seem to be ignoring them. Walk back to the apartment, and 200 feet from home one of Dora's shoes breaks; that's two pairs in one day. Home by 11:45.
Packing my suitcase, and Dora has bought 3 paella pans for me to give to my brothers and sisters back in USA, so I pack them. Also some wooden doll things, and a Peruvian pudding mix. Also the Peruvian jacket she gave me for my birthday. She wants me to take all of the medicines accumulated over the last two months, and also some shirts she wants to give me, but there's no way they'll fit. She dumps packets of Paracetamol and something else into the lid of the suitcase. I barely get it closed, and it's heavy. Done.
Typical Dora: she says lie down on the bed and close my eyes for a surprise. I do, but when I hear her opening a package, I open my eyes, and she's coming at me with a needle. I stop her and ask what it is, and it's clexane 40 mg, an anti-clotting shot because I'll be sitting for long periods on planes today. I let her inject me.
Said a sad good-bye to Dora, out the door at 4:45. Through very empty streets to F-i-P Metro (used my last T10 card: pics ), where the train comes in less than 30 seconds. But at the next station, I see it's 11 minutes between trains this morning. To Placa Catalunya by 5:10 or so, and first Aerobus of the day should come at 5:30. But two of them come at 5:23, and people start crowding on. I pay €5.90 for my ticket, and get a seat. My bus ends up full to overflowing, with people standing in the aisle.
To airport just before 6, 5-minute line at Lufthansa instead of the 45-minute line because I printed a boarding pass last night, short line at security. Through to gate area by 6:15, waiting for 8:10 flight to Munich (where I will change to plane to Philly). In the gate area, they have mobile-device charging towers (€1 for 30 minutes of charging), but no free AC outlets to run my laptop (and I don't have the right plug adaptor anyway). I use a little of a free 15-minute Wi-Fi signal.
Flight boarded on time, but then the captain came on the PA and said there was a baggage-handler's strike in Barcelona, so we were going to be delayed. But he was happy this flight was actually going to depart ! Yikes. 35 minutes late getting off the gate, takeoff just before 9.
Nice breakfast right away: delicious Movenpick yogurt (I think it says 14% fat on the side) with strange unfolding plastic spoon, and orange juice that seems to have zero sugar in it.
Landed in Munich around 10:45, and I'm worried about making my connecting flight, until I realize 11:15 is the start-boarding time, not the departure time (which is 12:15). Lots of anxious people crowding through a series of about four passport-checking stations and two security-checking stations, to the gate. Fortunately the luggage is checked through; don't have to haul that. I have a headache, and take a Paracetamol. 30 minutes free Wi-Fi signal here, but it requires sending a PIN to a mobile phone via SMS, and I don't have a phone.
Board and take off. A 9-hour-and-15-minute flight to Philly. Uneventful flight except that the cabin was cold (some people were complaining, and of course the blankets they give you are about 6 inches narrower and 1/8" thinner than they should be), and I had a headache. During the flight, took another Paracetamol, and a Tonopan. But they fed us well (a chicken dinner, later a turkey-cheese panini), gave us water and juice several times, and I had power-bars too. Not a bad flight. [The panini was pretty funny: came in a plastic package that listed the ingredients on the side, and there must have been 80 or 90 ingredients, for something that was just a bread-roll plus slice of processed turkey plus cheese.]
Landed on time at Philly in rain, no problem with Immigration or Customs, out to the curb a little before 4, and picked up by my brother about 5 minutes later.
Arrived at my brother's townhouse in NJ around 5 PM (11 PM Barcelona time). First thing unloaded was the paella pans: pic.
Turned on the TV, and "Househunter's International" on HGTV is showing a couple looking at apartments in Barcelona ! Looking in the Gracia district, walking on the beach near Port Olympic, view of Sagrada Familia, etc. Pretty funny: the couple was wandering in Parc Guell while discussing their choices, and there were NO other people shown in the park ! The TV show must have had police block off the usual swarms of tourists and vendors so they could film there.
Then we change channels, and the Brazil-Spain football Confederation's Cup final is about to start. [Spain ends up losing badly.]
[Three days later, "Metropolis" with Julian Davison on WealthTV: another show about Barcelona, showing many places I saw, and a lot of nice interiors I didn't see. Very interesting.]
My vacation in Barcelona was awesome ! Dora is wonderful. The city is great. The people, the surrounding towns, the history, the architecture, the art, the culture, the climate.
How did the money add up ?
Plane fare: $970 (from Philadelphia; non-stop to Barna, connecting in Munich on way back).
Apartment: about $1500.
Cash brought from USA, plus 11 ATM hits: about €1200.
Events on credit card:
Football tickets: €114.
Tivoli tickets: €30.
Tourist bus ticket for me: €24.
Sagrada Familia ticket for me: €16.
Michael Jackson tickets: €42.
Foreign transaction fees on credit/debit cards: about $60.
Total: about $4400.
Wow, I kept some 1200 photographs from my Barcelona vacation. Probably threw away twice that many: duplicates, out of focus, uninteresting, etc.
Things I didn't do/see: